Frequently Asked Water Quality Questions
The following questions are frequently asked about Greater Victoria's drinking water quality.
Is chlorine added to Greater Victoria's drinking water?
YES. Chlorine is added to Greater Victoria's drinking water to disinfect the source water entering the treatment plant. Ammonia is also added about 10 minutes travel time downstream from the plant. This provides a long lasting chloramine residual.
Is fluoride added to our drinking water?
NO. No fluoride is added to Greater Victoria's drinking water as part of its treatment process.
What is the fluoride concentration in our drinking water?
Very low levels of fluoride are naturally present in Greater Victoria's drinking water. This natural fluoride comes from the geological formations in the Sooke Lake Reservoir watershed. The average amount of fluoride in the water is about 10 micrograms per litre (or stated in different units, 0.010 milligrams per litre). This is well below the Canadian limit of 1500 micrograms per litre.
Do I need to use a fluoride supplement?
The tiny amount (0.010 mg/L) of fluoride that is present in Greater Victoria's drinking water is considered inadequate for dental protection purposes. Individuals must provide their own supplements if they so desire. It is suggested that you consult your dentist.
Is Greater Victoria's drinking water hard or soft?
The drinking water in Greater Victoria is very soft. It contains very low amounts of calcium and magnesium salts and does not, as in other cities that have much harder water, produce any buildup of lime inside kettles, hot water tanks or household plumbing.
What is the hardness of our drinking water?
The average hardness of the drinking water in Greater Victoria is about 15 milligrams per litre (or expressed in different units, about 1.5 grains per gallon). In Greater Victoria, since the water is soft, dish washing and clothes washing require less detergent than in cities that have hard water.
Sometimes my water looks milky. Is it still safe to drink?
In a drinking water system, the water travels under pressure. Occasionally, during maintenance work, air may become trapped inside these pipes and when the pipe is returned to service, the water pressure causes the air to dissolve into the water. Then, when the water comes out of the tap, it is no longer under pressure and the air that was dissolved in the water, comes out of solution forming very tiny bubbles. This causes the water to look milky.
When poured into a glass, the milky water will start to clear from the bottom up - with the clear water slowly moving upward. Often, when the water is clearing, the water will effervesce like pop. Usually this milky appearance is only temporary and the water will soon return to normal. The water is still safe to drink.
Sometimes the water from my tap is a brown. What causes this?
In Greater Victoria, brown water suddenly coming from the tap is usually the result of a disturbance to the normal flow of water in a water main. This disturbance may be caused by opening or closing a water main valve, opening a fire hydrant or a water main break. If the water inside the pipe changes either speed or direction or both, this change can cause the sediments inside the pipe to lift from the bottom and flow with the water. This could cause brown water to come out of the tap.
Typically, the brown sediments are primarily composed of algae that have come from Sooke Lake Reservoir. All of the water suppliers in Greater Victoria area flush their watermains annually to remove these pipe sediments and keep your water clean.
If the brown water is a common occurrence rather than something that suddenly happens, it is possible that the brown water may be caused by old, rusty pipes inside the building or from failing hot water tanks. Brown water coming only from the hot water tap is an indication of a problem with the hot water tank.
If you have an ongoing problem with brown water, contact the CRD Water Quality Division at 250.474.9603 or 250.474.9643.
White chips and flakes are clogging the screen on my tap. What causes this?
According to plumbing industry sources some residential hot water tanks may have a defective, white, plastic 'dip tube' inside the tank. Dip tubes are used to deliver the incoming cold water directly to the bottom of the hot water tank. This helps to prevent the cold, denser water from mixing with the hot water which is lighter and remains in the upper portion of the unit.
When a dip tube breaks down inside the hot water tank, small plastic chips or flakes (pieces of the dip tube) may enter the household piping, get caught in the aerator screen at the tap and block the flow of water. Depending upon the manufacturer, some of the dip tube particles float, some sink and some may appear greenish or tan coloured.
Dip tubes that have broken off inside the hot water tank allow the cold water to mix with the hot water. Thus, it will seem like the hot water does not last as long.
While the chips do not pose a health risk, since they clog household faucets and appliances and diminish the heater efficiency and effectiveness, the dip tube should be fixed. If you experience this problem, contact your plumber for information on dip tube replacement.
Why does my water sometimes smell or taste funny? Is it still safe to drink?
Water naturally varies in taste and odour at different times of the year. Taste and odour problems can come from new or old pipes, plumbing fixtures, or changes in source water quality.
In Greater Victoria, customers may notice changes in the taste of their drinking water during the first warm weather in the spring or during hot weather in the summer. The change in taste or odour may be due to the presence of algae (microscopic green plants) that are growing in Sooke Lake Reservoir. Most algae are normal, harmless plants and you can safely drink, cook, or bathe in this water. Sometimes algae can cause a “fishy” or “grassy” odour.
Is our water safe for watering plants?
YES. The drinking water in Greater Victoria is safe for watering all plants.
Is our water safe for pets and fish?
Our water is safe for all pets to drink except for fish, reptiles and amphibians that live in water. Animals that live in water take water directly into their bloodstream through their gills. For this reason, the chloramines must be removed before adding it to fish bowls and aquariums. Consult your local pet store for the appropriate neutralizing chemical. Ensure that the product says that it will neutralize 'chloramines'.
Will the chlorine dissipate if I leave a container out on the counter?
NO. For chlorinated drinking water systems, leaving a container of water out on the counter (or in the refrigerator) overnight allows the chlorine in the water to dissipate. This does not work for Greater Victoria's drinking water because this water is chloraminated and it often takes a number of days for the chlorine to dissipate.
Will a home filtration device reduce the chlorine level in the water?
YES. If the home filtration device contains activated carbon, it will reduce the level of chlorine in the water. The extent of the reduction depends upon the size of the unit (larger filters will achieve more reduction) and the freshness of the activated carbon.
Will using a home filter make the water safer to drink?
Home water filters may improve the taste, smell or appearance of your drinking water, but they do not necessarily make the water any safer or healthier. Please keep in mind that filters need regular maintenance. If the filter is not maintained properly, the water coming from the filter may contain high levels of bacteria and be worse than the water coming from the tap.
Do I need to buy bottled water?
Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Island Health Authority, says that there is no need to buy bottled water for health reasons since the drinking water in Greater Victoria meets all health-based water limits. Also bottled water is up to 1,000 times more costly than Greater Victoria's drinking water.
What is the bottom line on Greater Victoria’s water quality?
Greater Victoria residents enjoy safe, healthful water. CRD Water Quality Division staff run hundreds of tests each month on the water in the Greater Victoria Drinking Water System.