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November 25, 2014
At a Glance...

All is good on the Ottawa water front. According to its website, the city of Ottawa's Purification and Treatment System draws water from the Ottawa River then, using the most effective processes and equipment available, treats it to remove colour, suspended particles, algae, vegetation, bacteria and viruses. In fact, The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has rated the City of Ottawa's drinking water as one of the safest in the world.

There have been no boil water advisories, and water main breaks rates and operating costs are below the OMBI (Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative) median.

The City has also undertaken a comprehensive watermain replacement program where it has been a strong proponent of the use of cathodic protection (CP) as part of its water main rehabilitation program since 1990. Ottawa is also starting to install vortex valves to restrict stormwater surchages into the city's combined sewers, which have caused a large number of basement flooding incidents over the years.

However, in spite of all its efforts to provide clean water to its residents, the fact remains that Ottawa draws its water from the Ottawa River. Report findings indicate that the Ottawa River system is being degraded by municipal sewage, pulp and paper effluent, Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, floodplain and shoreline development, urban stormwater and much more. Fish contain unsafe levels of mercury and dioxins, pesticides and pharmaceuticals have been found in drinking water, and urban beaches are closed on days when pollution levels are considered unsafe for swimming. Finally, there is no discounting the dire consequences that can result from 'human error'.

Province delivers on $77M funding promise - 11/12/08 - Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa Installs Vortex Valves for CSOs -10/23/08 - Water & Wastewater News

Reality Check
City water rate to rise nine per cent - 11/12/08 - Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa is leaking the equivalent of 36 Olympic swimming pools into the ground every day. - 2007 - Canoe

2 city water managers fired over sewage spill -9/11/08 - Ottawa Citizen

Did you know?
Longnose Gar: Living Dinosaurs of the Ottawa River Great Canadian Rivers - Canoe

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Announces Decision to Issue an Operating Licence to SRB Technologies Nuclear

Health Effects of Tritium - Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D., GNSH

Ottawa Water - Facts & Figures

Ottawa's drinking water comes from the Ottawa River. The City treats the water before distributing it. Employees conduct over 125,000 tests a year to ensure that the quality of water delivered to homes meets or exceeds all health-based federal guidelines and provincial standards.

The City of Ottawa, Drinking Water Services, is responsible for managing, producing and distributing water to close to 750,000 residents and businesses in Ottawa. It is one of the largest water systems in Ontario under a single authority.

Two water purification plants at Lemieux Island (1931) and Britannia (1961) provide drinking water to customers in Ottawa while four smaller communal wells supply water to most residents of Carp, Richmond, Munster Hamlet, and Vars. We're also responsible for 20 pumping stations and 14 reservoirs.

Key Facts

  • 755,000 customers

  • 2 water purification plants

  • 2,690 km of watermains

  • 181,316 service connections

  • 20 pumping stations and 14 reservoirs

  • Average age of water pipes is 30 years

  • 50% of use is non-resident

    Performance Highlights

  • No boil water advisories issued

  • Number of watermain breaks is      below the OMBI (Ontario      Municipal Benchmarking      Initiative) median

  • Operating cost for distribution of      drinking water service is      approximately 15% below      median unit rate of OMBI      municipalities

  • The City's use of alternative      energy to deliver drinking water      services is recognized by OMBI      as a best practice.

  • Ottawa Drinking Water Rated Exceptional
    The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has rated the City of Ottawa's drinking water as one of the safest in the world. The Public Works and Services Department has achieved exceptional inspection ratings in the MOE's Chief Drinking Water Inspector's 2006-07 Annual Report released June 23, 2008.

    The MOE inspected all of the City's water production processes from treatment, distribution, emergency planning, customer relations, staff training and certification, and water quality monitoring. The MOE gave the City the highest possible inspection rating of 95 to 100 per cent.
    The City operates six distinct municipal water systems. The water quality rating for each facility is:

  • Carp Well Supply - 100 per cent
  • Richmond - Kings Park Well Supply - 100 per cent
  • Munster Hamlet Well Supply - 100 per cent
  • Britannia Water Purification Plant - 99.45 per cent
  • Lemieux Island Water Purification Plant - 99.35 per cent
  • Vars Well Supply - 100 per cent

    Sewers and Wastewater

    Built in 1961, the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre, which is one of the largest wastewater treatment facilities in Canada, treats domestic, commercial and industrial wastewater before returning the treated water to the Ottawa River. Between 1988 and 1993, the primary treatment facility was upgraded and a secondary treatment process and biosolids processing facilities were added. This expansion increased the capacity and nearly doubled the efficiency of the plant. As a result, the Pickard Centre now removes more than 90 percent of pollutants from the influent water.

    The City's wastewater collection system is a complex network of gravity sewers, sewage-pumping stations and forcemains. Collection sewers gather wastewater from the user, transporting the wastewater to main or trunk sewers. In turn, these sewers transport the sewage to the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre.

    The newly amalgamated Ottawa sewer system covers an area of 2,767 square kilometers and extends from West-Carleton to Cumberland. This area includes 2,000 kilometers of sanitary sewers and 125 kilometers of combined sewers, 40 lift stations, about 27,000 maintenance holes and more than 150,000 laterals. Sewer pipes range in size from 20 centimetres to three metres in diameter.

    In the rural areas, methods of dealing with wastewater vary. Richmond and Carp are connected to the municipal trunk system; Munster Hamlet is served by a lagoon and spray irrigation, and elsewhere wastewater is discharged into individual septic tanks. Sludge pumped from septic tanks is transported to the Pickard Centre for treatment.

    For public safety and environmental protection, the City treats wastewater at the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre before it is returned to the Ottawa River. Treatment is completed through a series of physical, biological and chemical processes.

    The Pickard Centre performs preliminary treatment through coarse screening, fine screening and grit removal. In the next stage, primary treatment, settleable solids (sludge) and flotable material (scum) are removed. Secondary treatment follows, where naturally occurring bacteria are used to remove dissolved and suspended organic pollutants.

    Phosphorus is removed through chemical precipitation. And, before it is finally returned to the Ottawa River, the treated water is disinfected using sodium hypochlorite, from May 16th to November 15th annually. - City of Ottawa

    Ottawa River

    Kitche-sippi, La Grande Rivière, The Grand River...the Algonquin First Nations and French explorers of long ago used simple eloquence to describe the supremacy of the waterway that connected them to the people and riches of the interior. They knew the river was long, that it plunged down from the deep, cold sliver of the lake Temiskaming, that it met a lesser river that led to the shores of Nipissing, and on to the epic inland seas.

    Today we know that it is the 2nd longest river in Canada, after the St. Lawrence, to flow to the Atlantic Ocean. We know that it begins deep within the province of Quebec and scribbles its way west through a chain of lakes to Temiskaming before turning south and southeast toward its St. Lawrence confluence. We know that it gave life to the ancient Algonquin tribes that lived on its banks and tributaries - and that it gave birth to a nation's capital. - Great Canadian Rivers

    The Ottawa River, 1271 km long, chief tributary of the ST LAWRENCE RIVER, rises in a chain of lakes in the LAURENTIAN HIGHLANDS. It continues with Dozois Reservoir, Grand-Lac-Victoria, Lac Granet, Decelles Reservoir, Lac Simard and Lake Timiskaming, entering each slowly and discharging with a heavy rush. South from Lake Timiskaming, it grows broad and forceful, widening into marshy lakes, then constricting into turbulent rapids. At St-André-Est, the Ottawa expands to form Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes, from which it enters the St Lawrence through Rivière des Prairies and Rivière des Mille-Iles to the east, and by a channel to Lac St-Louis to the south.- Wikipedia

    There is not one government agency that continually collects water quality information on a wide-scale basis for analysis. Water quality monitoring is piecemeal throughout the watershed, and there are currently no monitoring programs designed to answer questions about water quality trends in the mainstem of the river over time.

    Currently, there is no understanding of the total loading of pollutants to the river system from known sources such as municipal and industrial wastewater, let alone from non-point sources such as urban stormwater, agriculture runoff or boating. In addition, there is limited understanding of how the river operates as a system – how the river is shaping itself, responding to the presence of many dams, and increasing impervious areas or resource extraction (forestry, mining) for example. Our baseline data is sparse at best. As an inter-provincial river, these issues are not fully addressed by either province on its banks in terms of a comprehensive watershed study.- Ottawa Riverkeeper

    Rideau Canal

    Rideau Canal (or Waterway), 202 km long, links the OTTAWA RIVER at Ottawa with LAKE ONTARIO at Kingston. Conceived as the major component of an alternative route for military purposes between Montréal and Kingston, the Rideau Canal was first proposed as the WAR OF 1812 drew to its close. Construction started (1826) according to the design, and under the direction, of Lieutenant-Colonel John BY. About 50 dams were necessary to control the water levels at rapids on the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers. The 46 (originally 49) locks in use raise vessels 83 m from the Ottawa River to the portage channel at Newboro, whence vessels descend 50 m to Lake Ontario at Kingston. - Canadian Encyclopedia

  • Learn more...
    Ottawa Water
    Water Efficiency Strategy
    City of Ottawa

    Water Projects - 2020 to 2031
    City of Ottawa

    Water Quality at Ottawa Beaches - City of Ottawa

    Ottawa River
    The Ottawa River Heritage Designation Project -

    AECL to study waste site near Ottawa River - Ottawa Riverkeeper

    Managing the Ottawa River as a Canadian Heritage River: Challenges and Opportunities - Ottawa

    Ottawa River Big Water, Bigger History - Ontario Tourism

    Whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River - You Tube

    Rideau Canal


    Rideau Heritage Route

    History and Geography of the Rideau River - Canadian Museum of Nature

    Skating on the Rideau Canal - You Tube

    In the News...

    City water rate to rise nine per cent - 11/12/06
    Ottawa Citizen

    Province delivers on $77M funding promise - 11/12/08
    Ottawa Citizen, ON

    Ottawa water supply laced with toxins - 10/20/08

    2 city water managers fired over sewage spill - 9/11/08
    Ottawa Citizen, ON

    Attitude of staff tied to river spill 'Walkerton-like' - 10/23/08
    Ottawa Citizen, ON

    Environmental neglect - 10/24/08
    Ottawa Citizen

    Organizations tied to Ottawa River given additional funds- 10/18/08
    Orleans Online

    Algonquins seek full hearing as NCC plans Ottawa bridge - 10/22/08
    Ottawa Citizen

    National Geographic rates Rideau Canal a top destination - 2/27/08
    Ottawa Citizen

    Rideau Canal named a World Heritage site - 6/28/07
    Ottawa Citizen

    More News on main site


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