Frequently asked questions
- Do I need to have my water tested?
- Is my tap water safe to drink?
- What is the best choice of drinking water: bottled or tap water?
- What is Toronto's 'water hardness' and how does it affect me?
- Why do we use chlorine and fluoride in our water?
- What can I do to use less water to save money and still be environmentally responsible?
- Are our beaches safe for swimming?
- What causes water pollution?
- What is the City doing to deal with water pollution?
No, Toronto's municipal tap water is regularly tested and monitored; it meets and/or exceeds all regulations from the Ministry of the Environment. Read this information for the facts about door-to-door water testing.
To ensure the purity of our water, we test the water continuously during and after treatment. In fact, we conduct more tests and on many more substances than required by regulation. At the City of Toronto, we take drinking water samples every four to six hours to confirm the absence of bacteria.
We use only the necessary chemicals to treat the water, including chlorine, to kill E.coli and other bacteria that may be present. A tiny (and harmless) amount of chlorine is left in the water to ensure its continued safety as it travels to you.
If we are concerned about the quality of water, we immediately notify Toronto's Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of the Environment.
The answer is clear: tap water!
That's because our water is:
- of excellent quality
- strictly monitored
When we look at issues such as quality, monitoring and affordability, we see that bottled water doesn't always make the grade. For instance, some brands may be of excellent quality, but others can have inferior bacteriological quality. And all bottled waters are expensive. Another important fact: there are fewer government regulations to guide the bottle water industry. While bottled waters should meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, monitoring requirements aren't as stringent as are those for tap water.
For quality, consistency and affordability, tap water wins every time.
Toronto's water hardness is usually between 106 to 127 parts per million (the average for 2009 was 120 milligram/litre or 8.4 grains/imperial gallon). Lake Ontario water is considered 'moderate' terms of water hardness. There are no harmful health effects associated with these minerals (in fact, some believe they are beneficial), but measuring them does provide a guideline as to how water use may be affected. For example, hard water does result in more scale buildup and you need to use more soap and detergents. If you choose a water softener, it's recommended that a separate, unsoftened supply of water be kept for cooking and drinking.
Also, when you buy a new appliance, such as a dishwasher, the manufacturer often makes reference to water hardness. This is because hard water can cause automatic dishwashers to leave film on dishes and build-up of minerals on mechanical parts. It may also cause washing machines to leave residue on articles of clothing. If you have this problem, check your user manual on available solutions.
Chlorine is used to control bacteria, algae and viruses that can be found in the water. It's considered one of the most important tools to disinfect drinking water. It's actually been in use for more than 100 years and is responsible for ending disease epidemics that were widespread prior to its use. If extra chlorine is used (to ensure disinfection of the plant) before the water is pumped to your home, sulphur dioxide is added to reduce the chlorine to a residual level. Ammonia is then added to stabilize the residual. All of this meets Ontario's regulatory requirement for water.
Fluoride is added to treated water to reduce the risk of dental cavities. Toronto Public Health advises the City about setting the fluoride target level for treated water. And in keeping with Health Canada Guidelines, our fluoride level maximizes dental health benefits and minimizes concerns about over exposure.
Chlorine and fluoride are key ingredients to water quality and public health and safety.
Reduce, repair and retrofit. The 3Rs of water efficiency are great ways to save money and help our environment. They're also easy to put in place, any time, day or night.
The Toronto Water offers several tools and water-efficiency programs to help you use less water:
- water-saving kit: indoor use
For more information visit our Web site or call 416-392-7000.
During the summer, Toronto's 10 beaches are tested daily for water quality. If the water quality is not acceptable for swimming, Toronto Public Health posts signs warning against swimming.
When a beach is posted, Public Health officials advise swimmers not to enter these waters due to the high amounts of E. coli bacteria in the water. E. coli bacteria, which is found in animal and human waste, can cause ear, nose, and throat infections, as well as stomach upsets, skin rashes, and diarrhea. Those most susceptible to E. coli infection include young children, the elderly, and those with depressed immune systems.
However, thanks to several system improvement projects by the City, our beaches continue to be a favourite watering hole for many Torontonians.
For more information on protecting water quality or to check the beach water quality report, go to www.toronto.on.ca/water.
There are three major contributors to water pollution including:
- overflow of diluted sewage from combined sewers (pipes carrying both storm and sanitary wastewater) during heavy rainfalls
- pollutants, such as road salt, animal wastes, pesticides, oil, etc, that are carried into the lake from creeks and rivers or via storm sewers
- stormwater pollution from Toronto's municipal neighbours that is carried downstream
The City has what's called a Wet Weather Flow Management Master Plan. The plan addresses issues associated with stormwater and combined sewer overflow. Its goal is to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the negative effects of wet weather flow - runoff that is generated when it rains or snows.
Other pollution prevention projects include:
- Maintenance of watercourses or parts of watercourses
- Stormwater management retention/detention ponds
- Stormwater pollution
- Watershed management
- Downspout disconnection program