A: There are 34 public water systems in the NWT, all of which get their water from different sources. 27 of the systems draw water from surface water (i.e., lakes or rivers), 4 of them get water from groundwater (i.e., underground wells), and 3 get water trucked in from other communities with a treatment facility. The Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Municipal and Community Affairs provides summarizes where the tap water comes from for each community in the NWT here. Take a look and find your community!
Q: Why is tap water treated in the NWT?
A: There are different treatment systems used to treat drinking water in the NWT. Some communities have only a disinfectant process (i.e., chlorine) and no filtration system, whereas others have a combination of both. The type of treatment system usually depends on the specific treatment and filtration requirements for each community. The Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Municipal and Community Affairs provides summarizes the different treatment systems for each community in the NWT here.
Q: Why is tap water treated in the NWT?
A:Although we are pretty lucky to have some of the cleanest water in the country, we still need to treat our drinking water. Water is treated in order to kill any microorganisms that can cause disease, and to remove any chemicals or elements that might be above the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. In a nutshell, we treat our drinking water so that we know it is safe and clean, and so that is has little taste or smell.
Q: How do I know if NWT tap water is safe to drink?
A:Drinking water in the NWT is tested regularly. The local and regional Environmental Health Officers for your community monitor the results on a regular basis. If a problem is detected in the water samples, the Environmental Health Officer will notify the community immediately, and the appropriate actions will be taken to deal with the problem. The Government of the Northwest Territories also inspects community water treatment plants regularly to ensure system is functioning properly.
Q: My tap water tastes and smells swampy, why?
A: If you are experiencing a musty or swampy taste or smell with your tap water, it is likely due to your water tank needing a good cleaning. It is necessary to clean and disinfect your water tank at least once per year, or more often. If it doesn’t get cleaned as often as it should, algae can grow in the tank, which produces bad tastes and smells. Silt and bacteria can also accumulate in the tank, which can contribute to the problem. For information about how to clean your water tank, take a look at this video that The Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Municipal and Community Affairs prepared for NWT residents.
Q: My tap water tastes and smells like chlorine, why?
A: Chlorine is added to drinking water in the NWT to kill any microorganisms that can cause disease. It is a way of disinfecting the water and killing harmful bacteria. The Public Health Act in the NWT requires that chlorine is added to all surface and ground water sources that may be subject to contamination. If you find that your water tastes like chlorine, a simple solution is to let a jug of water sit uncovered overnight. This will give the chlorine time to leave the water. You can also try using a filter jug for your tap water, or install a filtration system on your water supply pipes. For information about how and why chlorine is used to treat water in the NWT, take a look at this video that The Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Municipal and Community Affairs put together.
Q: Where can I get more information about my drinking water quality?
A: The Government of the Northwest Territories, in collaboration with communities, has an online drinking water quality database that is accessible to the public. The database is available here. If you have questions about your drinking water you can get in touch with your local or regional Environmental Health Officer.
Q: What are the benefits of drinking NWT tap water over bottled water?
A: Drinking NWT tap water is better for our environment. Plastic bottles (we used more than 1.8 million in 2014-2015 in the NWT!) are made from petroleum (oil) products that take A LOT of energy to make, transport and recycle. Plus, many of the one-time use plastic bottles end up in our community landfills where they slowly degrade and leach into the soil.
Drinking NWT tap water is local, and you know where it comes from – the NWT. Many of the big bottled water companies are simply selling you treated tap water. And there is no requirement that bottled water producers tell you where the water came from, unless it is mineral or spring water.
Drinking NWT tap water is much more affordable. Bottled water can be 275 times more expensive than tap water in the NWT. Did you know that it costs more than $900 to drink a one-litre bottle of water every day for a year in the NWT? Plus, when you drink NWT tap water, you know it is safe. Drinking water in in the NWT is tested and monitored regularly to ensure it meets Canadian Drinking Water Quality standards. For more information visit www.nwtdrinkingwater.ca
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