Where does my water come from?
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Halifax Water operates three large state-of-the-art, ISO 14001 Certified, water supply plants and six modern smaller community supply plants to provide water to 360,000 customers throughout the Halifax Municipality.
Operators at all Halifax Water’s supply plants continuously monitor and adjust the treatment process to ensure the water output is of the highest possible quality.
Providing the Halifax region with safe, reliable, and affordable high-quality drinking water requires investment in infrastructure, research, and robust quality assurance and quality control programs. In order to ensure quality control is optimized, Halifax Water maintains an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 Environmental Management System Registration at the J. Douglas Kline (Halifax), Lake Major (Dartmouth), and Bennery Lake (Halifax Airport) Water Supply plants.
Lake recovery is the phenomenon whereby the reduction of acid rainfall in Nova Scotia has enabled the pH levels in local water sources to rise from a level that didn’t accommodate much biological activity, to a level that is very conducive to organic life. This shift in the pH level of local water sources is encouraging biological activity in our water sources, and while this is, of course, a very positive effect environmentally in both the United States and Canada, it brings with it a host of challenges in the treatment of these water sources for consumption. This increased level of organic life in Pockwock Lake was not present or planned for during the design of the J.D. Kline Water Supply Plant in the previous century.
The J.D. Kline Water Supply Plant serves Halifax, Bedford, Sackville, Fall River, Waverley, and Timberlea. Pockwock Lake, which is the water supply for the J.D. Kline Water Supply Plant, is experiencing lake recovery.
In Pockwock Lake, this recovery is causing some customers to notice a fishy or musty/earthy taste and odour. This change in taste and odour is not a human health concern, and testing of the treated water shows the water remains safe to drink. It is expected that this is a temporary situation.
This event is unrelated to the seasonal geosmin that we have experienced periodically since 2012 in late summer/fall.
To ensure public health protection, Halifax Water uses what’s called a “multiple-barrier approach.” This is an integrated system that prevents or reduces the contamination of drinking water from the source, to the tap, and back to the source. It consists of a series of checks and balances as follows:
Source water protection
Halifax Water's Source Water Protection Program proactively prevents contaminants from entering the drinking water system. Keeping clean water clean is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to ensure public health protection, and to maintain water resources both for people and the environment.
Optimization of treatment process
Halifax Water uses a Water Quality Master Plan as a roadmap for ensuring that the best quality water is provided to customers, that it exceeds regulatory requirements, and that it minimizes cost to the consumer. That plan is realized through plant optimization, internal water quality programs, and a research partnership with Dalhousie University.
Sound distribution system management
Halifax Water has a proactive Water Main Renewal and Rehabilitation Program to ensure the long-term integrity of the distribution system, reduce water wastage due to leakage, and improve flow capacity and water quality. This annual capital program provides for the replacement of approximately 2500m of structurally deficient and/or undersized pipe every year.
Cross connection control
Halifax Water has an active Cross Connection Control Program that minimizes the risk of contaminants entering the distribution system from customers’ premises through backflow prevention.
Continuous monitoring and testing
Halifax Water has a comprehensive water testing program. Bacteriological testing is done weekly at 51 locations within the Halifax urban core, and at each of the small systems in suburban/rural areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Tests are carried out by an independent certified laboratory with results sent directly to NS Environment and Labour and the Nova Scotia Medical Officer of Health.
- chlorine residual, pH, and turbidity of treated water leaving each plant as well as multiple locations within the plant, to monitor and optimize the treatment process
- quarterly sampling of treated water at 2–3 locations within the distribution system for approximately 40 chemical parameters
- quarterly sampling of raw lake water and water from contributing streams for approximately 40 chemical parameters
- bi-annual sampling of Lake Major and Pockwock Lake raw and treated water for all parameters in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality
- bi-annual testing and sampling for giardia and cryptosporidium for treated and raw water for all surface water systems
Each water supply plant has varying types of treatment systems in place based on the source water quality. The varying treatments conducted at the plants include:
- direct dual-media filtration
- sedimentation with multi-media filtration
- direct filtration
- disinfection (ultraviolet and sodium hypochlorite)
- ultra filtration
- iron and manganese removal/green sand filtration
Halifax Water is required by Nova Scotia Environment to maintain a chlorine residual of at least 0.2 mg/L (milligrams per litre or parts per million) in all parts of the distribution system to protect against microbial contamination.
Halifax Water plant operators add enough chlorine to meet the minimum at the most remote areas of the distribution system. This ranges from 0.5 mg/L in winter to 1.1 mg/L in summer. Therefore, the amount of chlorine in your water is between 0.2 and 1.1 mg/L.
Putting a pitcher of water in the refrigerator for a few hours will help any chlorine taste disappear.
Halifax Water fluoridates water in the Pockwock and Lake Major water supply plants. Health Canada’s recommended minimum concentration of fluoride in drinking water, to provide optimal dental health benefits, is 0.7 mg/L, which is the dose targeted by Halifax Water during treatment. Plant operators monitor concentrations in the treated water on a daily basis to ensure that the target fluoride levels are being achieved at all times.
Fluoridation practice is regulated by Nova Scotia Environment through operating approvals and the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality published by Health Canada. Heath Canada has reaffirmed its position that there is no significant risk of adverse health effects of a fluoride level of up to 1.5mg/L.
The fluoride Halifax Water uses in the drinking water system must meet the American Water Works Association standards, and more importantly National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard 60, which is a standard for additives to drinking water.
Water fluoridation is one of a number of public health measures where additives are used to achieve health benefits in a population. Find more information on those health benefits from Health Canada, here. Fluoride used in drinking water fluoridation is not considered a drug by Health Canada as per the Food and Drugs Act and is not regulated by the federal government as a drug.