The Conservation Authorities Act, which was passed in 1946, laid the groundwork for the
implementation of watershed management in Ontario. The concept of Conservation Authorities
was based on three fundamental principles: cost sharing between municipal and provincial
governments; local initiative (Authorities would be formed only when municipalities
petitioned the province); and watershed-wide planning.
Although conservation may seem like a vital part of life today, the need was not always
recognized. By 1954, 20 conservation authorities had been formed. Then came the fury of
Hurricane Hazel devastated southern Ontario overnight on October 15, 1954 killing 81
people and causing $20 million dollars in damage. Today, watershed management programs
undertaken by Conservation Authorities have virtually eliminated catastrophic flooding in
The province’s 36 Conservation Authorities are regarded as world leaders in
conservation, environmental protection, and flood control. Together Authorities own more
than 121,000 hectares of land, including areas in the Oak Ridges Moraine, Carolinian forest,
wetlands and important fish and wildlife habitat.