How a droplet of water gets from the mountains to your tap
Drinking water flows automatically when you turn on your tap, but do you know where it comes from?
It is much more complicated than alpine snowmelt running straight to your tap. A lot of behind the scenes work goes into making sure that Whistler’s drinking water is available and safe.
As Whistler heads into summer, with rising temperatures and an increased fire danger risk, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is encouraging everyone to learn more about this precious resource – and to use it wisely, so it can be saved for drinking and fire protection.
“The amount of drinking water we produce is limited,” said Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton. “Although we are surrounded by glaciers, lakes, rivers and streams, accessing and treating that water would require developing more infrastructure, which would be very costly to taxpayers to build, operate and maintain. Instead, we all need to become more conscientious of how we use water and use it wisely. The bottom line is: We need to work together to use less water.”
From 21 Mile Creek and 13 groundwater wells
Whistler’s drinking water comes from rainfall and alpine snow that melts into lakes and streams and replenishes the groundwater. The 21 Mile Creek Watershed provides on average 44 per cent of Whistler’s water supply. The RMOW focuses on source water protection, so that the treatment of the source water is effective.
When the 21 Mile Creek water is cloudy due to runoff, water is sourced from 13 groundwater wells.
Once the source water is treated, it enters the water reservoirs, which are kept full to ensure Whistler always has enough water in case of a structural fire. After being stored in the reservoir, water then travels through a pipe network to your tap – so you can enjoy safe, great-tasting water.
A sophisticated system
Whistler’s water system is sophisticated and has many measures in place to ensure its safety.
Water quality is tested at multiple locations every second week. Water is tested for E. coli and coliform, pH, residual chlorine, temperature and turbidity. All samples are sent to the Centre for Disease Control. Overall chemistry is tested annually
Drinking water evaluations are posted publicly on Vancouver Coastal Health’s website, and the Annual Drinking Water report is posted on the RMOW’s website.
Saving water is everyone’s responsibility
It can be easy to forget that treated water is a precious and limited resource even in Whistler where we receive a considerable amount of precipitation. Water demand is highest in the summer months when the use of irrigation is at a maximum.
Whistler uses an innovative system for managing water conservation during high demand. The water conservation stage is evaluated each week during the summer months. Recommendations to change the stage depend on water supply, reservoir levels, fire danger rating and the weather forecast. This allows for more flexible irrigation timelines while also ensuring the reservoirs are always full in case of fire.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler is working to keep finding ways for our community to use less water. Initiatives being rolled out are:
- Evaluating water metering to better monitor and equitably charge for water use.
- Implementing the 21 Mile Creek Source Protection Plan to keep our watershed clean.
- Bringing a Cross Connection Control Bylaw to Council to prevent backflow contamination.
Work is informed by the Comprehensive Water Conservation and Supply Plan, which will be updated soon.
Don’t forget to flush your taps!
Even though it is important to save water, remember to run taps until the water comes out cold before drinking. This makes sure the water you are drinking is the same quality as the water that is delivered to your home.
Whistler’s water consistently meets Provincial standards. Like many other communities in Canada, the pH of some source water is naturally low.
Once water is delivered to homes and businesses, it is the responsibility of property owners to manage it. If water has not been used for a while, levels of dissolved metals may increase.
Dissolved metals can comes from:
- Faucets – Fixtures inside your home may contain lead.
- Copper Pipe with Lead Solder – Prior to 1989 solder contained high lead levels.
To reduce exposure to metals, freshen tap water by running it until cold. This is Vancouver Coastal Health’s recommendation.
You can also install and maintain a water filter.
To learn more about water in Whistler, visit whistler.ca/water