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Survey of Drinking Water Plants

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2005 to 2007 (Previous release)

In 2007, about 88% of the raw water processed by Canada's drinking water plants came from surface water sources, such as lakes and rivers. Levels of E. coli bacteria in untreated surface water varied seasonally. About 98% of plants reporting monthly E. coli results produced drinking water that never exceeded the federal guideline for drinking water.

While the majority of the raw water processed by Canada's drinking water plants came from surface water sources, such as lakes and rivers, about 10% came from groundwater and about 2% were from other sources.

Drinking water plants processed 5 878 million cubic metres of raw water in 2007, the equivalent of over two million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The volume of treated water produced by these plants remained relatively stable between 2005 and 2007. In 2007, they produced 5 617 million cubic metres of treated water, compared with 5 706 million cubic metres in 2005.

The majority of Canada's population, about 28 million people, received their drinking water from plants that served communities of 300 people or more.

Just under 24 million people received drinking water obtained from surface water sources. Almost 3.5 million people were provided water from groundwater and just under half a million people were supplied by other sources.

Seasonal variations in untreated surface water quality

The survey found seasonal variations in the quality of untreated surface water, influenced by changes in water temperature.

E. coli bacteria, found exclusively in human and animal faeces can indicate the presence of disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Data from 96 plants serving 12.9 million people show the relationship between E. coli and temperature in untreated surface water sources. The presence of E. coli in untreated surface water peaked in the fall months.

Note to readers

This first Survey of Drinking Water Plants provides Canadians with national and regional information related to the production of drinking water. It collected information on volumes of water drawn and treated, treatment type, financial aspects of the operation, as well as raw and treated water quality. It surveyed facilities serving communities of 300 people or more.

The first survey cycle collected information for the reference years 2005, 2006 and 2007. This report presents key survey results, with a focus on the latest reference year, 2007.

This survey is part of the initiative of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators through which Statistics Canada, Environment Canada and Health Canada collaborate to produce environmental surveys and indicators. This survey was conducted to fulfill data requirements for the development of a national indicator of source and treated water quality. It was also intended to provide other statistical measures of the links between human activity and environmental quality.

With the exception of water quality data, the data presented in this survey report are estimates for the entire population of drinking water plants.

 Seasonal variations in E. coli bacteria and temperature in untreated source water, raw surface water

Majority of plants continuously meet drinking water quality guideline

In 2007, about 98% of plants treating either surface water or groundwater that reported monthly E. coli results never exceeded the federal guideline for drinking water. This guideline stipulates that no E. coli should be present in treated water. The results were similar for 2005 and 2006 despite seasonal fluctuations in the quality of surface water used by drinking water plants.

Capital expenditures vary from year to year

In 2007, $885 million in capital expenditures was spent upgrading drinking water plants.

These upgrades include improvements to buildings, machinery, process equipment and other physical assets related to the acquisition and treatment of water, but not its distribution. Capital expenditures varied from year to year, with spending of $996 million in 2005 and over $1 billion in 2006.

Labour largest component of operation and maintenance costs

In 2007, $807 million was spent on operation and maintenance. These costs include expenditures on materials (chemicals and replacement parts), labour and energy, but exclude water distribution costs.

The largest component of these expenses went to labour costs ($302 million), while materials and energy costs represented $198 million and $199 million, respectively. Other costs accounted for the remaining $108 million.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 5149.

The Survey of Drinking Water Plants survey report, 2005 to 2007 (16-403-X, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact the information officer (613-951-0297; fax: 613-951-0634;, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division.