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Water Today Title May 27, 2024

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WT sent a series of emailed question to Metro Vancouver communications. Our questions and their responses, directing us to their website content, are below with an overview of the online information.


How would you describe Vancouver city water and the main challenges it faces?

By way of clarification – Metro Vancouver is a utility provider that plans for and delivers regional-scale drinking water services to approximately 2.7 million people through its member jurisdictions.

Specifically, Metro Vancouver manages the watersheds and reservoirs, treats drinking water at the source and delivers water on a wholesale basis to its member jurisdictions, including the City of Vancouver. Metro Vancouver also monitors and tests regional water quality and plans for long term water supply and system resilience.

Member jurisdictions, such as the City of Vancouver, are responsible for distributing water within their boundaries, monitoring and reporting on local system water quality, and planning for and maintaining their water distribution systems.



Long term supply expansion: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/water/engagement/projects-and-initiatives/coquitlam-water-utility/

Do the plants have any treatment for PFAS, endocrine disrupters?

Per the latest Liquid Waste Biennial Report: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/liquid-waste/LiquidWastePublications/BiennialReport2021-Volume-1.pdf:

In 2020, Metro Vancouver initiated efforts to develop a compound of environmental concern (CECs) management strategy that will concurrently pursue source control as a primary line of defense; invest in feasible advanced treatment technologies; and pursue research and innovation to better assess these complex contaminants and the risks they present.

How would someone know if there was a boil water advisory?

In the extremely unlikely event of a boil water advisory, Metro Vancouver would notify health authorities, other governments, public and media through various channels. People would hear about it from the media, their municipality, health authority or from us directly.

With the increase in extreme weather events and flooding, is Vancouver taking any measures to protects its water plants?

Major projects are ongoing at all of Metro Vancouver’s liquid waste treatment facilities to increase capacity, improve treatment, enhance seismic resilience and account for climate change impacts including sea level rise.





Your annual Combined Sewage Overflow in 2020 was the second highest since 2014, are any measures being taken to remedy this situation?

Sanitary sewers collect wastewater that is put down a toilet or drain – in homes and businesses – and carry it to wastewater treatment plants. Combined sewers carry both sanitary wastewater and stormwater in a single pipe. Combined sewers only still exist in older parts of Metro Vancouver and are designed to discharge into the environment during heavy rain, to avoid backups into homes and businesses. Overflows from combined sewers are usually highly diluted by rainwater.

Combined sewers exist only in the older parts of the region (Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster), so combined sewer overflows occur only in those areas. Sewer overflows occur in both municipal and regional sewer systems. 

Metro Vancouver is working on a number of projects that will help reduce overflows. Metro Vancouver is upgrading aging infrastructure, building more wastewater storage tanks, installing back-up power in all pump stations, and increasing sewer capacity to accommodate growth. 

Municipalities and Metro Vancouver are also working to replace combined sewers with separated sanitary and storm sewers. Separating these sewers is a long-term project that will likely take decades to complete.




Can you describe in general terms how the water is treated and distributed in Vancouver?

Metro Vancouver’s water comes from rainfall and snowmelt in three major watersheds: Capilano, Seymour, and Coquitlam. These protected watersheds comprise about 60,000 hectares and are closed to public access to safeguard the high-quality source water.

The water supply is stored in three main source storage reservoirs and three supplemental alpine reservoirs. Metro Vancouver benefits from having existing supply sources which reliably refill, are in close proximity to the rapidly growing region that they service, and are situated at high elevations that allow for the delivery of water largely by gravity, reducing the need for energy-intensive pumping.

The regional water system also includes five dams, two water treatment plants, 26 in-system storage reservoirs and tanks that refill on a 24-hour cycle, 19 pump stations, eight disinfection facilities, and over 520 kilometres of transmission water mains ranging from 35 cm to 3 m diameter.

Water from both the Capilano and Seymour Reservoirs is treated at the Seymour Capilano Filtration Plant. How does one plant treat water from two sources? Underground tunnels transport water over 7 km from the Capilano Reservoir, so that water from both Seymour and Capilano can be treated at one facility. Learn more about the Twin Tunnels.

The main drinking water treatment processes at the Seymour Capilano Filtration Plant are filtration and ultraviolet (UV) light.

The Coquitlam Water Treatment Plant is located north of the City of Coquitlam. It treats about 380 million litres of drinking water each day. The main drinking water treatment processes are ozonation and UV light.

Metro Vancouver conducts daily tests on its drinking water—analyzing around 35,000 water samples each year. Results are public and found in annual Water Quality Control reports.

Water treatment is the second barrier (after source water protection) relied on to assure the quality of
the water supply.

Completion of the Twin Tunnels Project in 2015 successfully concluded GVWD’s regional long-range water treatment enhancement plans which spanned more than ten years. Each tunnel is 3.8 meters in diameter, 7.1 kilometers long, and 160 to 640 meters below ground level, running beneath Grouse Mountain and Mount Fromme.

The water from the Raw Water Tunnel (RWT) is filtered and treated alongside the
Seymour source water at the Seymour Capilano Filtration Plant (SCFP). Both treated sources enter the
Clearwell at the SCFP for further treatment before the blended water is distributed to the region. Blended treated water returns to Capilano through the Treated Water Tunnel (TWT) and provides high quality drinking water to the Capilano area while the remainder is distributed through the Seymour system.




Snowmelt is one of the sources of Vancouver's drinking water, with the warming climate, do you expect water shortages?

Metro Vancouver's water supply strategy includes building new infrastructure to double its capacity to access, treat, and distribute water from Coquitlam Lake. Planning is currently underway for the design and construction of a second water intake, a water supply tunnel, and water treatment facilities.

Construction is expected to begin by the late 2020s, with completion targeted for the late 2030s. Once complete, the Coquitlam Lake Water Supply Project will help meet the region’s needs well into the next half century.




The city claims to have no lead in its water system, yet lead was found in the drinking water of some homes in Vancouver. Can you clarify this claim?

The number of lead pipe connections in Metro Vancouver is unavailable. According to "Tainted H20” - a national collaborative investigation into Canadian drinking water standards – this is since 20 of the 21 municipalities and one First Nation that are members of the Metro Vancouver federation do not test for lead at residential taps.