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Water Today Title May 27, 2024

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Highlights of the City of Ottawa's 2020 Annual Drinking Water Report


  • The City of Ottawa’s central water supply provides safe drinking water to approximately 900,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers.
  • Using the Ottawa River as its source, drinking water is treated at two purification plants - Britannia Water Purification Plant and Lemieux Island Water Purification Plant.
  • It is distributed through more than 3,000 kilometres of water mains before arriving at your tap. In rural areas, the City operates six groundwater well systems.
  • More than 100,000 water quality tests are performed on drinking water samples annually, covering 350 parameters. The results demonstrate that City of Ottawa customers receive high-quality drinking water that meets all federal guidelines and provincial standards.



The report is based on the operational period from January 1st, 2020 to December 31st, 2020, and reviews the eight municipal water systems owned and/or operated by the City of Ottawa:

  • Britannia Water Purification Plant
  • Lemieux Island Water Purification Plant
  • Carp Drinking Water System
  • Kings Park (Richmond) Drinking Water System
  • Richmond West (Richmond) Drinking Water System
  • Munster Hamlet Drinking Water System
  • Shadow Ridge (Greely) Drinking Water System
  • Vars Drinking Water System

This report details all aspects of Ottawa’s municipal drinking water systems including operational performance, water quality, flowrates, capital projects, inspections, regulatory requirements, and any items of non-compliance noted during the year. A thorough review of Licenses, Permits, Regulations, and Ministry Inspection Reports indicates that Ottawa residents were provided with safe drinking water during 2020.


  • COVID-19 response measures – During 2020, there were no positive cases of COVID19 for the 282 staff that work in drinking water. A number of operational measures were implemented including rotating maintenance crews, PPE, physical distancing, air/ventilation improvements, shift-change procedures, self-screening, disinfection of work surfaces, and staff isolation while awaiting test results. Through these efforts, an uninterrupted supply of safe drinking water was delivered to Ottawa residents throughout 2020.
  • Customer sampling/testing during COVID restrictions – water sampling and testing activities were modified during 2020 in order to better protect staff and Ottawa residents.

Routine sampling sites were shifted to water facility locations without public access or person-to-person contact. All in-home water quality testing activities were suspended on March 16th, 2020.

Modified procedures were adopted to test water quality without entering the resident’s home. In this way, a total of 682 customer inquiries and complaints were handled during the year.

  • Water quality monitoring – during 2020, more than 100,000 laboratory and operational tests were conducted to ensure the safety of Ottawa’s drinking water supply. The monitoring program includes 75 continuous analyzers and 8 laboratories analyzing more than 315 test parameters. The results confirm that Ottawa residents continue to be supplied with high quality drinking water.
  • Annual Inspection Ratings – Ottawa’s municipal water systems were inspected during 2020 and all eight systems achieved an excellent rating of 100% by Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector.
  • Radioactivity in the Ottawa River – the City’s extensive radioactivity monitoring program at both treatment plants did not detect any radiological impacts from upstream activities such as Chalk River. Ottawa’s drinking water met all safe drinking water standards for radiological parameters. As a means of protecting our source water, technical staff are actively engaged in reviewing and providing comments on the proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility at Chalk River.
  • Regulatory compliance – Ottawa’s municipal water systems complied with all drinking water regulatory requirements with the exception of (2) items of minor non-compliance. These non-compliance items were technical and/or administrative in nature and did not affect the quality of drinking water supplied to the public.
  • Water production rates – each day, an average of 288 million litres of drinking water was treated and distributed to Ottawa residents and businesses, which represents a small fraction of the Ottawa River flow (0.27 %).
  • Drinking Water Advisories – during 2020, four Boil Water Advisories were issued by the Medical Officer of Health for localized areas of the water distribution system, in total affecting 75 households and 2 commercial buildings. All four advisories were issued on a precautionary basis and were lifted once confirmation that water quality was not impacted.
  • Combined Sewage Overflow – In 2020, Ottawas launched its Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel (CSST) to protect the Ottawa River for future generations.
  • Emerging issues in drinking water – a number of substances were highlighted in the media such as: microplastics, PFAS compounds, pharmaceuticals, and radioactivity. In all cases, test results from Ottawa’s monitoring program demonstrated the safety of Ottawa’s drinking water supply. Ottawa continues to be an industry leader in monitoring, evaluating, and responding to emerging issues in water quality.
  • Lead Pipe Concerns - Although Ottawa’s tap water is lead free, small amounts of lead can dissolve during transport through lead service pipes and/or household plumbing and tap fixtures.

In Ottawa, there are approximately 27,945 homes that have lead service pipes currently in use. During 2020, there were 83 older homes that had their lead service pipes replaced and are no longer supplied with lead service pipes.

To further minimize lead exposure through drinking water, the City is engineering a new treatment strategy that uses a trace amount of phosphate to form a protective coating on lead pipes. The project is expected to reduce lead concentrations by approximately 70% and the project is currently in the design phase at both water purification plants and is expected to be implemented in 2023.

Ottawa City Documents