Water Quality in CanadaProviding healthy, safe drinking water to citizens is very important to the Canadian government. The Canadian government developed an organization called the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee, who was instructed to develop the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. These guidelines establish limits on substances that are allowed in drinking water and to what degree they are allowed, maintaining a high water quality in Canada.

The most important guideline is the Microbiological Quality guideline. The microbiological organisms that affect water quality include viruses, protozoa and bacteria. This guideline is the most important since these organisms can cause harm to those that drink it, both in the short and long-term.

Canada has had an increasing problem with algal blooms. Algal blooms are toxic, and these blooms are becoming more frequent and growing in spatial intensity.

The next set of guidelines to maintain the water quality in Canada is the Chemical and Radiological Quality guideline. The chemicals and other materials that provide the greatest risk in this category are fertilizers, silt, agricultural run-off and other minerals. These guidelines regulate the trace amounts in drinking water, as levels higher than those outlined in the guideline can cause health issues over a period of years.

The last category of guidelines is the Aesthetic Quality. These guidelines address things that consumers are most quick to notice; taste, odor and color. Most problems with these qualities come from water treatment plants or the distribution systems to the consumer’s house, such as piping.

In order to effectively regulate these guidelines, Canada has established 173 monitoring stations. The City of Ottawa itself performs over 125,000 water quality tests a year, checking for over 300 chemical contaminants.

These guidelines have proven to be very effective as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gave a grade of “A” to the water quality in Canada.

When compared to 16 other peer countries, as considered by the OECD, Canada ranked 4th behind Sweden, Austria and Norway. In comparison, the United States was ranked 13th with a grade of “C”.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr