SEATTLE — Water is a necessity for all biological life and water quality is an important issue in every region of the world. Having readily available, potable water will always be a top concern. That is why treating water properly “takes a great deal of knowledge and coordination among multiple stakeholders from governments and businesses, to individuals”. Water quality in Canada is no exception and the country happens to be one of the world leaders of water quality.
Drinking water in Canada mainly comes from groundwater and freshwater bodies, such as lakes and rivers. The public water systems in Canada are routinely monitored and must meet specific quality requirements to insure the water is potable. However, Canadians who get their water from surface water or wells are required to make sure the water is safe to drink on their own.
When dealing with well and surface water it is important to remember that water in nature is never pure. It is very easy for water to become contaminated with minerals, pesticides, fertilizers and runoff. All water will require some degree of treatment and that is where the Water Quality Index comes in handy.
According to the Water Quality Index, the water quality in Canada earns an “A” and ranks fourth out of the world’s top 17 countries. The three countries ahead of Canada are Norway, Austria and Sweden. In order to ensure the water is sanitary, “The Water Quality Index measures dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus. It is an indicator of eutrophication, nutrient pollution, acidification, and salinization.”
The measurement of dissolved oxygen is critical, because plants and fish can die if the levels are too low. The pH of a water supply measures “the acidity or alkalinity of a water body. It can affect aquatic organisms both directly, by impairing respiration, growth, and development of fish, and indirectly, by increasing the bioavailability of certain metals such as aluminum and nickel.”
Conductivity deals with the measurement of electric current running through the water at any given time. High measurements “can lead to changes that reduce biodiversity and alter community composition.” When water contains high nitrogen and phosphorus levels, the water becomes life threatening for living organisms. This problem is often linked to manure runoff, synthetic fertilizers and wastewater that is discharged from industries.
In order to ensure that the water quality in Canada remains at a high level, the responsibilities are “shared between the provincial, territorial, federal and municipal governments. The day-to-day responsibility of providing safe drinking water to the public generally rests with the provinces and territories, while municipalities usually oversee the day to day operations of the treatment facilities.”
The science and research that goes into keeping the water clean is a joint effort from Health Canada’s Water Quality and the Health Bureau. Health Canada’s Water Quality and the Health Bureau supply the guidelines used by every jurisdiction in Canada to maintain the highest level of drinking water possible. One of the most impactful guidelines is the multi-barrier approach.
The multi-barrier approach prevents water contamination by studying the entirety of the water system that is being used. That includes everything from where the water initially begins, all the way until it reaches the consumer.
The three main parts that are studied and analyzed are the waters source, the drinking water treatment center and the water system in charge of transporting the water. As previously stated, water can easily pick up all sorts of minerals and waste as it travels. The multi-barrier approach uses collected data to successfully prevent water contamination because the data pinpoints every way the water can get contaminated so it can be treated accordingly.
The overall water quality in Canada is better today than it was 30 years ago. Keeping water sanitary for consumption purposes is an ongoing battle that rests on the shoulders of Canada’s governments’. The country has shown a great deal of progress over the years and reaching the fourth spot in the world is a great milestone. Canada has set a great example for the world to follow and is still climbing the ladder of success.
– Terry J. Halloran