|The fact that Canada has no National Water Policy is well documented. Report after report has deplored the absence of national standards and management practices. This was also the message Canadians gave during the Forum for leadership on Water, a cross-country tour held in 2011 for the Tides Canada Initiatives.|
Our report focuses on drinking water management and on the transparency of public reporting in each of Canada's 13 provinces and territories.
What we have found is a maze of different approaches and public reporting protocols.
Yukon Drinking Water - Part 2
The Yukon government approved a new regulation for large public drinking water systems and bulk water delivery in August 2007.
According to this regulation, the owner of a large public drinking system (any system that has 15 or more connections piped to a distribution system or five or more delivery sites on a trucked distribution system) is responsible for supplying and delivering safe drinking water (water that meets the health-related criteria set out in the Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality) to users.
Operators must obtain a permit from a health officer.
Water systems that obtain water from a surface water source or use well water under the direct influence of surface water must provide treatment consisting of filtration and disinfection.
Owners must ensure that drinking water is monitored for bacteriological, chemical and physical quality as well as for turbidity.
Water testing for large public systems serving less than 500 users, must be done twice a months; for sytems serving 500 to 3,000 users or more, one a week.
Boil water orders are issued by health officers who may give notice of the boil water order or its rescinding or require the owner to give said notice to users.
Yukon does not publish its BWAs online.
Sask. Drinking Water - Part 2
Municipalities own and are responsible for
municipal drinking water facilities and
their operation. That includes supplying
the public with safe drinking water.
Saskatchewan Environmentimplements, inspects and regulates compliance for 567 licensed municipal waterworks, 64 permitted pipelines, 38 regional or provincial park waterworks, 24 industrial waterworks, 85 other permitted waterworks (such as trailer courts, institutions and Hutterite colonies), and 577 wastewater facilities under The Water Regulations, 2002, serving roughly 850,000 people, 650,000 of them in cities and larger towns.
Saskatchewan Health, through the health
regions, will regulate semi-private
waterworks that have a flow of less than
18,000 litres per day. These include, for
example, on-site water systems serving
restaurants, motels, campgrounds, small
parks, municipal wells with no distribution
system. There are about 1,600 semi-public
waterworks across the province. Smaller
non-municipal pipeline systems (3-14
service connections) will also be regulated
About 150,000 people rely on private
waterworks including systems at farms,
rural homes and cottages. Although
private waterworks are not regulated,
health regions will interpret test results.
• About 85% of Saskatchewan residents rely on municipal or communal waterworks for domestic uses.
• About 27% of municipal or communal waterworks use surface water and serve about 57% of Saskatchewan residents.
• About 73% of municipal or communal waterworks use groundwater and serve about 28% of Saskatchewan residents.
• About 15% of Saskatchewan residents (such as farmers, cottage owners, etc.) rely on private or individual works; the sources for these systems are groundwater (wells) or surface water (small reservoirs, dugouts, lakes, etc.)
Saskatchewan's standards for bacteriological drinking water quality are more stringent than the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
The number of samples required for bacteriological water quality monitoring of a waterworks is based on the number of people served by the system. See table, Page 4
Saskatchewan publishes an Annual on Drinking Water Report. The latest is for 2010-11.
Saskatchewan posts and regularly updates all advisories online. Their Saskh20 website also links to owner/operators'requests for Precautionary Drinking Water Advisories and Emergency Boil Water Orders.
- Drinking Water
Ontario Drinking Water - Part 2
Ontario has stringent, health-based standards for microbiological, chemical and radiological contaminants to protect drinking water quality. As bacterial contamination can pose severe health hazards, Ontario has adopted zero tolerance standards.
Municipal residential drinking water systems supply the homes of more than 80 per cent of Ontarians. Others obtain drinking water from either non-municipal year-round residential systems, seasonal residential systems or small private systems serving five homes or fewer (such as private wells).
Municipal residential systems, non-municipal year-round residential systems, and systems serving vulnerable populations (such as children or the elderly) are regulated under Ontario Regulation 170/03.
Ontario Regulations 318/08 and 319/09 regulate drinking water systems serving the public at non-residential and seasonal residential facilities, which are overseen by public health units. Public health units evaluate risks at individual systems and develop a system-specific water protection plan to ensure compliance with provincial drinking water quality standards.
Ontario Regulation 252/05 regulates drinking water systems serving non-residential and seasonal residential uses until their intended transfer to the public health units. The Ministry of the Environment oversees the current requirements. After the proposed transfer of responsibility, public health units will evaluate risks at individual systems and develop a system-specific water protection plan to ensure compliance with provincial drinking water quality standards.
According to the Chief Drinking Water Inspector's 2009/2010 Report: in 2009/2010 Ontario's licensed laboratories submitted more than 600,000 microbiological, chemical and radiological drinking water test results from drinking water systems to the ministry. Those results showed that
- 99.88 per cent of water quality tests submitted by municipal residential drinking water systems met Ontario drinking water standards.
- 99.51 per cent of drinking water tests from non-municipal year-round residential systems, such as mobile home parks, met the standards.
- 99.49 per cent of water quality tests submitted by systems serving designated facilities met Ontario drinking water standards.
Information on adverse water quality incidents and long-term boil water advisories at municipal residential systems is included in the Chief Drinking Water Inspector's annual report. You can access detailed information about whether your local sources have been tested and how many of those tests had passing results here.
Drinking Water Ontario
Clean Water Act Fact Sheet
NB Drinking Water - Part 2
New Brunswick public websites offer very little specific information concerning water treatment standards and schedules other than to state that
the Department of Health works in cooperation with
the Department of Environment to regulate public
drinking water supplies.
Public Health Inspectors
monitor the results of water samples taken by
municipalities to ensure the water does not exceed
Health Advisory Limits, a set of bacteriological and
chemical criteria based on the Canadian Drinking
Water Quality Guidelines.
To protect the public from
adverse health consequences, District Medical Officers
of Health may issue 'Boil Orders' or 'Do Not Consume
Orders' where public supplies fail to meet the Health
According to the Department of Health's 2010-11 Annual Report, 13,312 water tests were monitored and 32 boil orders were issued in 21 New Brunswick communities.
Although statistics on drinking water sources were not found, the extensive information concerning the monitoring and testing of private wells in New Brunswick indicate that there are many in the province.
In 2006-07, the Department of Environment introduced a
one-time free water testing opportunity for private well
owners called “Know Your H20”. The Department of
Health participated in the program by reporting to
homeowners results which exceeded the Guidelines for
Canadian Drinking Water Quality and providing free
follow-up samples. A total of 7,163 private well owners were contacted and 3,434 took advantage of the offer.
Boil water advisories are published online.
Public websites offer very little specific information concerning water treatment standards and schedules
Drinking Water Quality
BC Drinking Water - Part 2
Ensuring safe drinking water is a considerable challenge, because there are literally
thousands of different water systems in British Columbia—more than 3,000 public and
community water systems under provincial jurisdiction and 468 small First Nations water
systems under federal jurisdiction. While water systems share some common features,
individual water systems are designed in different ways and will face specific issues and
Water suppliers have ultimate responsibility for delivering safe water to the consumer.
Their responsibilities are outlined in B.C.'s Safe Drinking Water Regulation.
Local health authorities are responsible for protecting the public from waterborne illness and ensuring that water suppliers meet their responsibilities according to the Safe Drinking Water Regulation. There are six health authorities; a Provincial Health Services Authority and five geographic health authorities, within which there are 16 health service delivery areas. They employ medical health officers, environmental health officers, and public health engineers to ensure the safety of drinking water.
More than half of the B.C. population get their water from the two largest water systems: the Greater Vancouver Regional District system, which serves 18 municipalities and two million people, and the Capital Regional District on south Vancouver Island, which supplies a population of approximately 340,000. Not surprisingly, most of the
small and medium-sized water systems are found in rural areas of the province.
About half of the B.C. population are served by surface water public systems in Vancouver and Victoria. Outside of the Vancouver and Victoria areas, there is roughly an equal split between surface and groundwater systems.
• About three-quarters (76%) of B.C.'s drinking water comes from surface water (lakes, river, streams); the remainder
comes groundwater (wells or springs, fed from underground sources called aquifers).
• Most (84%) British Columbians get their water from a public water system (a system that serves more than one single family
Regional Health Authorities regularly update and post BWAs online.
Manitoba Drinking Water - Part 2
There are approximately 430 public water systems in Manitoba, 45% of which rely on surface water as their source of supply, and 55% on groundwater. Approximately 80% of the population of Manitoba are serviced by public water systems. Surface water is the source of drinking water for 85% of public water system customers.
The major population centers of the province rely on surface water sources.
There are a growing number of regional water supply systems servicing rural areas. Semi-public water systems are currently being inventoried. An initial estimate is that there are approximately 1,500 semi-public and 35,000 private water systems in Manitoba.
Water suppliers must collect samples for bacteriological analysis by a certified laboratory . The number of samples required and the frequency of sampling depend on the size of the population being served. For example, public water systems serving less than 5000 people are required to take one raw sample, one treated sample at the water treatment facility and one treated sample from the water distribution system (distribution sample) every two weeks.
Boil Water Advisories are issued for a water system or a water source by a Medical Officer of Health (Manitoba Health) due to a confirmed or suspected bacteriological quality problem. Affected residents and businesses are notified in the event an advisory is issued and provided with instructions on precautionary measures.
Manitoba posts its boil water advisories on the Water Stewardship website. Advisories are updated as they happen, no details are given as to the reason for boil water advisories.
Manitoba Water Stewardship
NS Drinking Water - Part 2
About half of Nova Scotians rely on surface water for their residential water supply and half on groundwater.
A public drinking water supply is a water works system for the provision of piped water for human consumption where the system has at least 15 service connections or serves 25 or more individuals per day at least 60 days of the year. This includes municipal, commercial, institutional, industrial, and privately owned water supplies (eg. schools, restaurants, nursing homes, campgrounds, parks which are on their own water supply).
The regulations require public drinking water supply owners to test their water supplies on a regular basis, to inform their customers and Nova Scotia Environment if there are problems, and to take corrective action to address any problems which may be identified.
Nova Scotia Environment and Labour has been designated as the lead
agency to take such measures as are reasonable to provide access to safe,
adequate and reliable public water supplies.
The Medical Officer of Health (MOH) provides advice to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Environment, the owner and the public regarding public health concerns
associated with drinking water supplies. The MOH may issue orders to protect
public health, including the issuance of boil water advisories.
All water supplied must meet health based Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality published by Health Canada.
Nova Scotia publishes its boil water advisories. The site is updated once a week or so.
Environment - Water
NL Drinking Water - Part 2
According to the 'Drinking Water Safety in Newfoundland and Labrador' 2010 annual report, public water supplies in the province come from two types of sources: surface water (rivers, ponds, and lakes) and groundwater (drilled and dug wells). Section 39 of the Water Resources Act, SNL 2002 cW-4.01 protects public drinking water sources. As of 2009–10, 85 percent of public surface water supplies were protected and 30 percent of public groundwater supplies were protected under the Act.
According to the document "Source to Tap" the drinking water quality monitoring program is limited to public water supplies only and currently there is no legislative requirement for the monitoring of institutional, commercial and private supplies. If your drinking water supply is not currently regulated you can encourage your council/Local Service District to submit an 'Application for Protection of a Water Supply Area' to the Water Resources Management Division of the Department of Environment and Conservation.
Under the partnership arrangement with municipalities, the Department of Environment is responsible for collecting samples, interpreting data, and providing quarterly water quality reports to participating municipalities and the province covers the costs
Approximately 83% of the province's population receives water from public sources and 17%
from private sources.
The majority of public water supply sources are surface water (64%)
(ie. lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers and streams) and the remaining are groundwater (36%)(ie. dug and drilled wells).
In total, about 64% of surface and ground water sources are protected, about 36% of unprotected.
Approximately 459,043 (83%) of the total population of the province has access to
public water supplies (serviced) while the remaining 91,193 (17%) use private (unserviced)
There are 520 water systems in the province.
Boil water advisories are regularly posted and updated online with details as to the reason for the advisories.
Water Reports including Drinking Water Safety 2010 report
Source to Tap
Nunavut Drinking Water - Part 2
NOTE: We await confirmation from the government of Nunavut that the information below is correct. The link no longer works.
We were unable to find detailed online information on Nunavut Drinking Water other than the Department of Health and Social Services is responsible for environmental health.
According to the 2006 Sierra Legal Report, Waterproof 2, the Chief Medical Health Officer determines
the manner and frequency of sampling
for bacteriological, physical, and chemical
characteristics. The Department of Health and
Social Services issues water sampling protocols.
There is no requirement for individual systems
to provide public reporting and the territorial
government does not produce an annual report.
Online reporting is not available even though a
database is kept. However, there are no regulatory
criteria specifying when boil water alerts should be
issued or the proper notification procedures.
Health and Social Services
AB Drinking Water - Part 2
Alberta was the first province to require even stricter rules for drinking water
quality than those outlined in the Health Canada
drinking water guidelines.
Alberta Environment (AENV) is responsible for the Drinking Water and Wastewater Programs for large public systems in Alberta.
Although a new provincial health board, Alberta Health Services Board, has replaced Alberta's nine regional health authority boards, Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) are to this date still responsible for the application of the Public Health Act of Alberta within their Regional boundaries. The role of RHAs in the spirit of the Public Health Act, applies to all drinking water systems, both large and small, and to all aspects of safe drinking water production and delivery, if there is a concern about health impacts or disease transmission.
The system owners / utilities are responsible for meeting AENV's regulatory requirements and for the production and delivery of safe drinking water to the consumers.
Of all the consumptive uses of water in Alberta, 97.5
per cent comes from surface water and 2.5 per cent
comes from groundwater. The two main surface water
users in Alberta are irrigation (71 per cent) and
commercial/industrial operations (15 per cent).
Municipalities account for five per cent of surface
water consumption. The three main groundwater
users are commercial/industrial (53 per cent),
agricultural operations (25 per cent) and municipalities
(18 per cent).
In Alberta, approximately two million people get their
drinking water from large municipal systems. The
efficiency of larger systems provide a reliable and safe
supply of water at a relatively low expense, because
there are so many users. Approximately 400,000
Albertans get their water from smaller water treatment
plants, which is relatively costly to the operator. The
remaining 600,000 Albertans obtain their water from
private systems such as wells, water co-ops or by
As do most provinces, Alberta offers a great deal of information online, including direct access to waterworks' testing and reports.
Alberta Health Services now posts recent boil water advisories online and on its RSS feed.
Water For Life
Regulated Drinking Water in Alberta
Regulated Drinking Water in Alberta -List of waterworks
Quebec Drinking Water - Part 2
Quebec first introduced binding drinking water standards at the
provincial level with 42 parameters for testing in 1984. Since then, Quebec has increased the number of standards required for monitoring, and some of its standards go beyond those of the Canadian Guidelines. Quebec's approach promotes inter-departmental and watershed management.
According to the Regulation respecting the quality of drinking water the owner/operator of a drinking water distribution system must regularly monitor the quality of the water to ensure that it is fit for consumption and is not a health hazard. If bacteriological analyses of the water reveal the presence of fecal coliform, the owner/operator must immediately notify users that the water is unfit for consumption and should be boiled for at least one minute before drinking.
The Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP) is responsible for the quality of drinking water and the implementation of the drinking water regulation through its seventeen administrative regions.
About 86% of the Quebec population, or 6,7 million people, receives its drinking water from municipal systems.
In 2010, 1,104 residential distribution systems were municipal and 405 were private systems.
Boil water advisories are regularly updated and posted online.
There is comprehensive documentation online including lists of waterworks and regulations. Most of it in French only.
Water Policy (English)
PEI Drinking Water - Part 2
Although everybody on Prince Edward Island uses groundwater to meet their daily water needs, over half of Islanders (57%, the highest proportion in Canada) depend on private wells for their water supply.
40 per cent have onsite sewage disposal systems for wastewater treatment. A high proportion of drinking water quality problems can be directly related to the condition of wells or onsite sewage disposal systems.
The Environment Division is responsible for the sustainable management, protection and enhancement of the Province's drinking water, groundwater, inland surface water and coastal estuaries. The division regulates water and sewer infrastructure and assists in the administration of funding that supports this infrastructure. The division provides water testing services (microbiological and chemical) and engineering advisory services to the general public, other provincial departments and agencies, industry and municipalities.
All municipal water supply utilities and privately owned or operated central water supply systems are required to sample their water on a regular basis according to the requirements prescribed in the Drinking Water and Wastewater System Operating Regulations. These regulations specify the both minimum scope and frequency of water testing for water supply facilities based on the system size and characteristics, and also require system operators to report general water quality statistics to customers on an annual basis.
The Drinking Water and Wastewater Facility Operating Regulations, which came into effect January 1, 2005, require that all facilities have certified operators in charge of the operation of water and wastewater systems. As of April 1, 2005, all municipal systems are required to have certified operators, and as of January 1, 2006, all systems serving the public are required to be registered. Also, as of January 1, 2006, systems serving five or more households are required to have certified operators in charge of their systems. The level of certification is based upon the facility classification of the system(s). For an operator to become certified, they must meet certain education and experience requirements and successfully complete an examination (greater than 70%) administered by the department.
There is no requirement to publish boil water advisories.
NWT Drinking Water - Part 2
NOTE: A media request has been sent for confirmation and update of information. We have received no reply as of yet.
No single government agency or organization is solely responsible for safe drinking water in the North West Territories; rather various government agencies have responsibilities in different areas of water safety.
Community governments have the authority and responsibility to provide safe portable water to their residents.
In communities where the community government is the owner and operator of the water treatment facilities, then the community government will be responsible for the treatment and safety of the water supply in those operations. Responsibilities include treatment of water to meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, the submitting of water samples to a laboratory for bacteriological and chemical analysis, and maintaining records of raw water quality, finished water quality and the amounts of chemicals used in treatment.
The responsibility for ensuring safe drinking water is vested with the Government of the Northwest Territories, which has passed specific public health legislation designed to ensure the safety of drinking water supplies. The Department of Health is the regulator and is responsible for enforcing the Public Health Act, Water Supply System Regulations, and General Sanitation Regulations as well as ensuring the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality are met.
Environmental Health Officers and Medical Health Officers, employed by the Department of Health and Social Services (and the H&SS Authorities), act as regulators to ensure safe drinking water.
The legislation covers a multi-barrier approach to ensure water safety. This includes source protection, water treatment (mandatory disinfection), good operation and maintenance of water supply systems, water sampling and monitoring programs, and appropriate abatement and enforcement measures. New water sources and treatment plants must receive health approval. In addition, Environmental Health Officers perform inspections of and review the operation of water treatment plants as well as monitor that the required water-sampling program is in place. If there is a problem with the drinking water quality, or the systems designed to ensure the safety of the drinking water supply, appropriate abatement action is ordered by the health authorities.
For more information, contact theEnvironmental Health Offices in the NWT.
The role of the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is to provide necessary funding for water infrastructure development, set standards for water system development, and to coordinate training and provide financial assistance for the training of water treatment plant officers operators. The Department is also responsible for the certification of water treatment plant operators.
For technical assistance, contact MACA's Senior Engineer at (867) 873-7538.
Transparency The Northwest Territories has an excellent searchable database-driven boil water advisory information system. The database is updated regularly and contains information on waterworks and treatments as well as water incidents .The database is a joint project of Stanton Territorial Health Authority and the Government of the NWT departments of Health and Social Services, Municipal and Community Affairs, and Public Works and Services.
The database is a joint project of Stanton Territorial Health Authority and the Government of the NWT departments of Health and Social Services, Municipal and Community Affairs, and Public Works and Services.
Drinking Water Quality, info and database
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