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  Shared Accountability -  Improving Drinking Water

Drinking Water
Drinking Water Indicators

Improving Drinking Water

Shared Accountability - Drinking Water System

Working Together - Partnerships

The drinking water we use to brush our teeth or fill our kettles comes to us by way of a very long process starting in Lake Huron or Lake Erie. Most people don’t give it a second thought. It is however, one of the most important services that the City provides and the care and management of this precious resource requires our combined attention.

1. City of London
2. Joint Boards of Management for the Lake Huron and Elgin Area Water Supplies
3. Government
4. Conservation Authorities – Source Water Protection

1. City of London

The City of London is proud to provide its citizens a drinking water system built and maintained as state-of-the-art. The value of our municipal water system can be summarized by these four factors:

  1. High Quality – Treated and tested to exceed Ontario Drinking Water Standards
  2. Reliable – Standby pumping equipment and reservoir storage ensure supply to over 100,000 homes, offices and businesses in London
  3. Safety – Pipes and hydrant networks provide fire protection
  4. Abundant – Connected to both Lake Huron and Lake Erie water supplies

The City has taken or is planning a number of additional steps to make certain London always has enough quality drinking water:

  • A proposed reservoir planned for in the southeast portion of the City (proposed Southeast Reservoir) will improve storage requirements for a growing population.
  • Alternative (green) construction techniques are planned for new facilities such as the Southeast Reservoir which will incorporate an environmental certification program (called LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) not often used for municipal infrastructure buildings. The proposal includes a green roof covered with vegetation and plans for multiple uses for a portion of the surrounding park land (BMX bicycle park, off leash dog park).
  • Continuous upgrading and training of operations staff to ensure they remain fully certified.
  • Water audit and water loss evaluation studies have been completed.
  • Water Conservation measures have been instituted including:

                1. full cost accounting to customers
                2. summer water restrictions for outdoor watering via bylaw
                3. implemented turf water conservation at city-owned golf courses
                4. active participation on the Joint Water Board Water Conservation Committee

The City is working with the community and local businesses to encourage best management practices dealing with water conservation. All citizens have a part to play in water conservation.

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2. Joint Boards of Management for the Lake Huron and Elgin Area Water Supplies

The Joint Boards of Management manage the water system from the Great Lakes source and sells the bulk water to the City (and 13 other municipalities) for distribution and ensures the water quality and quantity for our residents. The Joint Boards are initiating several actions to ensure that the quantity and quality of the water is being wisely managed. This includes two programs.

HELP Clean Water

This project was initiated by the Joint Boards as a regional water supply project that will serve the needs of more than 500,000 people living and working in Southwestern Ontario. The project will be implemented in phases over the next 20 years at an estimated cost of approximately $350 million. Funding for the project is being pursued through an infrastructure partnership involving all three levels of government. It is a strategic, multi year program designed to benefit the entire region environmentally and economically over the next 30 to 50 years. Local groups involved in this project include Trojan Technologies, University of Western Ontario and Dillon Consulting. Highlights include:

  • sustainable and reliable supply of clean water

  • built in capacity for future growth

  • reduced reliance on groundwater supplies

  • enhanced reliability with full emergency power capacity

  • increased emergency storage

  • new source of energy generation that will utilize green power initiatives (wind power)

  • creation of a world class research and development facility that will pursue constant improvement of water treatment and technology

Environmental Management System (ISO 14001)

A registered Environmental Management System (EMS) has been implemented at both water supply systems. This system is commonly used by industry to ensure continual improvement while better managing the impact of their activities on the environment and demonstrating sound environmental management.

An EMS enables an organization to develop an environmental policy, establish objectives, targets and processes to achieve the policy commitments, take action as needed to improve its environmental performance and demonstrate conformity to the ISO 14001 standard. The overall goal is to support environmental protection and prevention of pollution while balancing socio-economic needs.

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3. Government

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has regulatory standards and procedures that govern the operations and monitoring of drinking water. Several pieces of legislation are administered under MOE and provide direction to manage drinking water through Certificates of Approval and other mechanisms:

  • Clean Water Act (Bill 43 - 2005)

  • Safe Drinking Water Act (2002)

  • Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act (2002)

  • Drinking Water Systems Regulation (O.Reg.170/03)

  • Ontario’s Well Regulation (O.Reg.903)

  • Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (O.Reg.387/04)

  • Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards (O.Reg. 169/03)

The Middlesex-London Health Unit also has regulatory responsibilities under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. They are notified by the testing laboratory and water system operator when there are public water supply sample results that do not meet health-related provincial standards. Under certain circumstances the local Medical Officer of Health has the authority to issue Boil Water Advisories or Drinking Water Advisories or orders, to minimize human illness, until the problem is rectified.

The health unit also promotes regular bacteriological testing of private water wells (e.g. household wells). Sample bottles are provided at the health unit and other local municipal offices for residents to take water samples from their own wells for free bacteriological testing at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Regional Public Health Laboratory in London. Consultation with health unit Public Health Inspectors is available to discuss the laboratory results.

Environment Canada is involved in large scale, water management issues that impact the Great Lakes. The latest of these issues involved the transfer of water from the Great Lakes basin. This issue was handled through changes to the Great Lakes Annex, an international document (U.S. and Canada) that provides direction to governments managing the Great Lakes for water quality and quantity.

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4. Conservation Authorities – Source Water Protection

Increased interest in the safety of our drinking water from the provincial government has instigated a program supported by legislation and proposed regulations on “Source Water Protection”. This is based on the principle that our drinking water is best protected by using a multi barrier approach that prevents contamination from the source all the way to our taps. While it is important to ensure we have safe water treatment and distribution systems, it is cost effective if we take the first step to care for our groundwater, lakes, rivers and streams and prevent their initial contamination.

Sources of drinking water include surface waters from lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands, and groundwater supplies in aquifers. Threats to our sources of drinking water include pollution and overuse. Conservation Authorities who are established based on watersheds will lead this initiative over the next several years using MOE legislation to guide the development of local source water protection plans.

The City of London falls within two source water protection regions reflecting the two watersheds that the City is located within; the Thames River and the Kettle Creek watersheds. These watersheds are markedly different draining to two separate lakes; Thames River draining to Lake St. Clair and Kettle Creek draining to Lake Erie. These two regions have been administratively organized into the regional source water protection areas identified as:

  • the Thames, Sydenham and Region that includes the Upper Thames River and Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authorities (84% of the City) and
  • the Lake Erie Region which includes the Kettle Creek Conservation Authority (16% of the City).

Conservation Ontario, the umbrella organization for Conservation Authorities has information on its web site attempting to correct a number of myths:

Myth #1 – We have an inexhaustible supply of drinking water. There is a finite amount of water on the earth. It just keeps getting recycled over and over in the watercycle. If we take more than can be replaced naturally, we run short.

Myth #2 – All sources of water away from urban areas are pristine and clean. All things are connected in a watershed and what occurs upstream eventually affects people and conditions downstream. Although our groundwater, lakes, rivers and streams can tolerate limited stress, long time problems can develop if we use too much water or allow long term contamination. Surface and groundwater sources are contaminated from air, land and water contamination. For example, one litre of improperly disposed of oil (such as a old, leaky car parked near a storm sewer grate) can pollute thousands of litres of water; one improperly capped well can pollute an entire underground aquifer (the underground stream) for kilometres around.

Myth #3 – We don’t have to protect source of drinking water when we can just treat the water and make it clean enough to drink. Treatment systems work well to remove contaminants and make our water safe for drinking but treatment is the final method of making our water clean. Ontario has 2 million residents who draw their drinking water directly from untreated groundwater sources. They do not have access to treated water. We must protect our water sources from all kinds of contamination. Protection and conservation will cost less than developing and operating water treatment systems that are required to remove greater amounts and new kinds of contaminants.

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