Vancouver aims to provide residents with the cleanest drinking water of any city in the world by 2020. That is quite an ambitious target, which is part of the Greenest City initiative.
Vancouver collects its water from rainfall and snowmelt, which end up in three watersheds: Capilano, Seymour, and Coquitlam – each providing ⅓ or the City’s water supply. They are closed to the public, protecting the water supply from human activity. Due to the nature of the water, rain, it does not stay in contact with rocks or minerals for long and is naturally very soft (very low limescale).
Treatment plant disinfect water from pathogens, and Chlorine is added for distribution. Chlorine is unfortunately often associated with bad taste and smell, and this is even truer as you get closer to a rechlorination station. Then there is the risk of lead, for older buildings. In 1989, the BC Plumbing Code was revised to restrict the use of lead in plumbing components, which means that any building constructed before 1989 may be at a higher risk of having lead in water.
Is tap water safe to drink? Can you drink tap water in Vancouver? Yes! However, using a filter such as TAPP, will remove any undesired smell, taste, chlorine and lead added as the result of the distribution, while keeping the healthy mineral, leaving you with clean, healthy water.
Where does Vancouver tap water come from?
Water from both Seymour and Capilano are treated at the Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant, while water from Coquitlam is treated at the Coquitlam Water Treatment Plan. Water from Seymour and Capilano comes from the steep North Shore Watersheds, which carry heavy particles from erosion during heavy rains. Filtration removes these particles. On the other hand, water from the Coquitlam Watershed is much more clear even during heavy rain. Filtration is not needed, and ozone is used to remove iron, manganese, taste, odors, sulfur without adding chemicals.– ozone and UV provide excellent water treatment for this source. Both treatment plants use UV to kills bacteria and viruses, and add Chlorine to keep the water disinfected as it enters the distribution system.
An additional eight rechlorination stations control chlorine levels as water moves away from the primary treatment plants. The closer you are to one of these, the higher chances water will taste poorly.
Once water enters Vancouver’s distribution system, it is tested from 53 dedicated water sampling stations. Water must comply with the health standards set out in the BC Drinking Water Regulation.
What is in Vancouver tap water and who regulates it?
Despite regulations on water quality, it is difficult to predict the exact composition of water at your faucet. Lead, very commonly used in buildings prior to the BC Plumbing Code revision in 1989, as well as less regulated substance, such as pesticides, may be present in the water. Atrazine, for example, a pesticide that is very commonly used in Canada remains below the Canadian maximum limits, but well beyond the European standards, which ban its use. Moreover, according to water research by OrbMedia microplastics were found in all tap water in the world.
In Canada, tap water is regulated by the Federal Agency, who delegate control to municipalities, and forces them to publish their results. The City of Vancouver samples more than 40 contaminants. However, when it comes to bottled water, neither regulations nor ministries directives specify how and how often water should be sampled. The latter is considered a food and is therefore subject to the “Food and Drugs Act.’’ Bottling plants are inspected annually by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), while municipal water is tested several times a day. In addition, except for arsenic, lead, and coliform, the Food Act does not provide limits on other contaminants, simply citing that water may not contain ‘poisonous or harmful substances’. No law requires water bottle companies to publish reports on water quality.
To sum up, tap water is much more regulated than bottled water. If you want to know the composition of your water, tap water is your safest bet.
In order to be on the safe side – with lead, to remove bad taste and smell linked with chlorine, or to be ready for potential contaminants which are still under-regulated – a carbon block filter like TAPP could be a good option. TAPP removed lead, microplastics, pesticides, chlorine and its byproducts as well as reducing nitrates and arsenic.
Drinking water in public places and restaurants
In Vancouver, it is very easy to ask for water at a bar or a restaurant. Very few places refuse. It may happen in some very rare cases, that a restaurant forces patrons to buy a bottle. No law prohibits them to do so.
With respect to water fountains, there are over 500 of them to refill your water bottle in Metro Vancouver – they can be found in most parks. Vancouver also published the location of each fountain in open data. You can also find them using the MyTAPP app on iOS and Android, which has worldwide coverage.
Tap water is perfectly safe for most Canadians. Despite this, the bottled water industry generates $2.5 billion in sales, mainly through Nestlé and its brands: Pure Life, Perrier, S. Pellegrino, Acqua Panna or Montclair.
Plastic bottles can take up to 400 years to decompose. Most of those that are not recycled, end up abroad – generating more greenhouse gas. The good news is that over 75% of the plastic bottles sold in British Columbia are returned. That is because British Colombia runs a bottle bill and you will be refunded between ¢5 and ¢20 for each plastic bottle when returning them to the retailer. All ready-to-drink beverages sold in the province are required to be offered for sale in recyclable or refillable containers.
Not only does bottled water have a negative environmental impact, it is interesting to note that it costs more than gasoline per gallon. Moreover, in 25% of cases, bottled water is just filtered municipal water sold at a premium according to the Canadian Bottled Water Association. Pepsi’s Aquafina brand uses filtered municipal tap water from Vancouver.
To reduce your environmental footprint, the best solution is to use reusable bottles and fill them with tap water or filtered tap water. Using a filter like TAPP, you will never need to use any plastic linked with your water consumption. When it’s time to change the filter, dispose of its biodegradable refill cartridge with organic waste.
- Drinking water in Vancouver comes from rainfall and snowmelt
- Water is safe to drink according to criteria established by the Federal Agency.
- Bottled water is considered a food, and is subject to the “Food and Drugs Act.”, which does not define strict criteria.
- Chlorine which is added to the water for disinfection can be removed with a carbon-block filter
- Lead leaching from old infrastructure in buildings constructed prior to the BC Plumbing Code revision in 1989, can be removed using a carbon-block filter
- Bottled water often comes from municipal tap water, and is often more expensive than gasoline per gallon
- The British Columbia bottle bill covers all ready-to-drink beverages sold in the province
- There are over 500 water fountains spread across Vancouver.
Do you drink tap water in Vancouver? We want your feedback and opinion. Agree or disagree? Tell us!