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Households and the Environment Survey, 2015

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Released: 2016-12-16

Drinking water

In 2015, 69% of households in Canada reported that they drank primarily tap water at home, up slightly from 2013. Bottled water as the main type of drinking water in the home was reported by 19% of Canadian households in 2015, down from 23% in 2013 and continuing the downward trend from 30% in 2007.

Households in Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba (both at 26%) were most likely to have reported primarily using bottled water at home, while households in Prince Edward Island (84%) and British Columbia (85%) were most likely to have used primarily tap water.

Overall, 89% of households reported that their dwelling's main source of water was supplied by a municipal system, while 10% reported their main source of water was a non-municipal source, such as a private well (9%) or a surface source (1%). Households in Saskatchewan (94%) and Alberta (92%) were the most likely to have had municipally-supplied water, while households in Prince Edward Island (51%) and New Brunswick (48%) were most likely to have drawn their water from a non-municipal source.

Treatment of drinking water

Just over half of all households (51%) indicated they treated their drinking water prior to consumption. Jug filters were the most common method of treating drinking water, with 25% of households reporting their use. On-tap filters were the second most common method, used by 18% of households. Boiling water to make it safe to drink was reported by 12% of households in 2015.

Newfoundland and Labrador (65%) households were most likely to have treated their drinking water prior to consumption, while those in Quebec (39%) were least likely. Just over one-quarter of households in Alberta (26%) reported they treated their drinking water with an on-tap filter, while 34% of households in Manitoba indicated they boiled their water to make it safe to drink.

Boil water advisories and orders are issued by public health units or other responsible authorities when there is cause for concern about the quality of drinking water from a water supply. In 2015, 10% of households in Canada reported that they had been notified of a boil water advisory. Households in Manitoba (36%) were most likely to have reported one. Among those households that were affected by a boil water advisory, 60% reported boiling their water in response to the advisory, 65% reported using bottled water instead of tap water and 12% filtered the water prior to drinking it.

Energy-saving lights

Energy-saving lights provide illumination while using less energy than conventional incandescent lights. There are various types of energy-saving lights that homeowners can choose from.

In 2015, 88% of Canadian households reported using at least one type of energy-saving light at home; a level that has been fairly stable for most of the last decade. While 68% of households reporting having the most common type of energy-saving light—compact fluorescents—their popularity has fallen from their peak of 76% in 2011.

Fluorescent tubes, which have shown a more gradual decrease since 2007 (46%), were reported by 39% of households. Halogen lights were reported by 35% of households, unchanged from the previous cycles of the survey.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are very energy-efficient lights and are increasingly popular for both regular use and holiday lights over the last few years.

The proportion of households reporting owning a LED light (excluding LED holiday lights) doubled to 30% in 2015 compared with 14% in 2013, and more than quadrupled from 7% in 2009. LED holiday lights were reported by 41% of households, unchanged from 2013.

Radon awareness

Radon is a naturally-occurring colourless, odourless, tasteless gas that tends to accumulate in basements and crawlspaces. After smoking, it is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. In 2015, 55% of Canadian households reported they had heard of radon, up from 45% in 2013. Of these, 59% were able to identify the correct description of radon when asked to pick from a list of possibilities, up from 53% in 2013, while one-third (31%) chose an incorrect description, down from 37% in 2013. The remainder had only heard of the term.

  Note to readers

The Households and the Environment Survey (HES) asks Canadian households about their activities and behaviours with respect to the environment. It covers a wide variety of topics including water and energy consumption and conservation, hazardous products used in the home, and the household's interactions with nature. Data from the survey are used by governments to guide policies and programs, by researchers to learn more about Canadians and by individuals to see how they compare to the rest of the country.

In 2015, the HES surveyed roughly 22,000 households.

The target population of the 2015 HES consisted of households in Canada, excluding households located in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, households located on reserves and in other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces, and households consisting entirely of full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Institutions and households in certain remote regions were also excluded.

First conducted in 1991, the HES was subsequently conducted in 1994, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. Some of the environmental variables from the first cycle continue to be measured, but many new topics have been introduced over the years.


The CD-ROM Households and the Environment Survey: Public Use Microdata File, 2015 (Catalogue number16M0001X), is now available.

The fact sheet "Radon awareness in Canada" is also now available as part of the publication Enviro Fact Sheets (Catalogue number16-508-X).

Contact information

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