Your water supply: where does it come from?

July 10, 2016

Canadians are blessed with plenty of fresh water, but does knowing where it comes from matter? Yes, because the source of our water supply affects quality, delivery, availability and cost. Here's an overview of the subject.

Your water supply: where does it come from?

Do you live in a city or the suburbs? Hang your hat in the countryside or cottage country? Or is a remote area off the grid more to your liking? Wherever you call home, you depend on a nearby supply of water.

Does it matter where your water comes from?

One hundred per cent yes! Because the source of water affects the quality, delivery, availability and cost. What's more, without water, so many of the vital activities that go on in our homes – from cooking to cleaning – couldn't happen.

Municipal water for urban and suburban Canada

Central water services supply more than 26.5 million Canadians in cities and towns.

  • As such, your water supply most likely comes from your municipality, but more private water companies are beginning to serve consumers, too.

Where does the water come from before it reaches your local operator?

  • Simply stated, Canada is fortunate to be surrounded on three sides by oceans, while having many freshwater sources, too.
  • In varying amounts from area to area, the water that flows out of your tap was sourced from a regional lake, river, drainage basin, or watershed.

Does it make a difference if your water supply for drinking, cooking and washing comes from a central water service? In short, yes, because your public water supply is legislated for safety and quality with safeguards like:

  •       Provincial regulations for water disinfection
  •       Operator certifications for water testing, treatment and distribution
  •       Federal guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality
  •       Ongoing water quality monitoring by accredited labs

That means when you pay your water bill, you get the convenience of having readily available (and safe) water:

  • When you move to a new house or apartment, your water is usually ready to turn on.
  • If you are building a new home, you simply connect to the municipal water system for a fee.

Your water well in rural Canada

Living in the country has its pleasures, but not all the conveniences.

  • In most rural areas, about 15 per cent of Canadians supply their own water from a private well or cistern.

Whether you need to supply water for a large farm or a small cottage, you may need to drill a well.

  • Breaking ground on new construction means breaking ground for the new well, too. Also, because wells run dry, you may need to drill another one down the line.

Legal regulations
Most provinces and territories have regulations for drilling water wells to ensure a well is safe and the aquifer stays clean. You will need a qualified professional to prepare a well report, build your well and install the pumps. In addition, you'll need to follow your province’s water well regulations that cover:

  •       Proper well location
  •       Safe separation distances from other wells and septic systems
  •      Permitted materials and construction methods
  •      Your legal responsibilities as a well owner

Your responsibilities
While you are not responsible for a monthly water bill, you are responsible for your well’s water quality and maintenance.

  • Depending on geology, soil and environment, your well could become contaminated. For that reason, you'll need to test your well water regularly, especially if it changes in taste or smell.

If drawing your water from a well, dangerous contaminants to test and treat your well water for include:

  • E. coli and other bacteria
  • Fuel leaked from storage tanks
  • Chemical contaminants from industrial sites
  • Agricultural fertilizers and pesticides

Water directly from remote lakes and streams

Canada’s wilderness is magnificent, including its natural water supply from lakes, rivers, streams and glaciers. If you don’t want to carry bottled water, much of the water in the back country tends to be as good as it is beautiful.

  • Although you can usually drink the water directly from the source in remote areas, to be really safe, boil or disinfect it before you drink.
  • Even the clearest-looking, fastest-running water can contain bacteria, viruses or algae that can lead to nasty intestinal upsets. Iodine or chlorine tablets are inexpensive and easy to carry.
  • Love hiking in the mountains? What about backwoods camping? Mountain streams are safer to drink from since sunlight at higher altitudes purifies the water for free.
  • When you’re boating in the summer or ice fishing in the winter, draw lake water from below the surface and away from the shore.
  • Remote areas with few humans around can offer the best water quality.

Don't take chances
In all cases, boiling or disinfecting water before consuming it is the best approach no matter how "pure" it appears for two good reasons: tummy trouble if you're in a remote location is both avoidable and a miserable experience.

By reading this simple guide, you should have a better understanding of where your water supply comes from and the important factors to consider when using different water sources.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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