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Where Does Tap Water Come From?

May 5, 2016 by HealthyFamilies BC

Where Does Tap Water Come From?

When you turn on the tap, water seems to magically come out, safe and ready to drink. It can be easy to take access to safe drinking water for granted, but what goes into making this happen? Read on.

Where does drinking water come from?

Most of us get drinking water from municipal water supply systems. The source of drinking water is usually from lakes, streams or groundwater wells. Depending on where you live, drinking water may be supplied by:

  • Your local government or utility. This is the case if you live in a larger community.
  • An independent small water supply system. Usually this happens in smaller, rural communities and the independent system is responsible for extracting and treating water to make it safe to drink.
  • A well that serves only a single home. The homeowner is solely responsible for their drinking water in these situations.

Water supply systems in BC, whether run by a large municipality or by a small community are all held to the same drinking water quality standards.

Why and how is drinking water treated?

Drinking water is treated to prevent water-borne disease outbreaks. Many deaths throughout human history have been caused by such outbreaks. Thankfully because of scientists, engineers and other experts that work on a daily basis to make water safe, these outbreaks are hardly seen today in first world countries.

Still, drinking water sources can become contaminated. The causes can be from human or natural activities that affect lakes, streams or groundwater wells where drinking water is drawn. To prevent contamination from reaching your home, most water supply systems use a number of treatment steps to get rid of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. This is usually a combination of:

  • filtration
  • treatment with ultraviolet light
  • chlorination

A team of skilled operators run, maintain, and regularly replace the treatment equipment and water system infrastructure. They also take water samples to make sure the water treatment is working. Plus, Drinking Water Officers from local health authorities routinely check that the entire system is working and meeting drinking water standards.

What happens to drinking water in an emergency or disaster?

During man-made or natural events like spills, earthquakes or floods, the safety of water can be put at risk. Same for when water systems need repairs or new infrastructure. If this happens, your water supplier will issue warnings to treat tap water yourself or to find an alternate source until the problem is taken care of. Read how to prepare and make sure you have water in an emergency.

A great amount of time, effort, and resources go into making sure that your tap water is safe to drink. Can you imagine how your life would be different if it wasn’t there?

Learn more about how drinking water is protected and delivered to your home:

Author’s Bio: David Fishwick is the Drinking Water Manager at BC Ministry of Health, and works with BC’s Health Authorities and other industry experts to develop and improve provincial drinking water policy.  Communities have been delivering water for domestic use for thousands of years, and we are still learning new things about it and ways to improve these services every day.

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