Drinking water at Ontario Parks
May 5, 2014
If you’re a novice at camping in the parks of Ontario, you may be asking if there is drinking water available at the parks – or at least should be asking. Remember that you need drinking water for more than drinking – you will also probably use it for cooking and brushing your teeth.
Water in the park
The good news is that there is potable water available from the taps in the parks. The water has the same safety standards as drinking water systems in our major cities. (See below for article from Ontario Parks on ensuring safe drinking water). The same water is delivered in taps in the washrooms and at the outdoor taps that are found between campsites. There are times when there is a boil water advisory in effect – I find that this is very well communicated throughout the park. You will not miss the advisory. The water can still be used for drinking – but you should boil it for the number of minutes suggested at the park prior to use. You can check whether your park has a boil water advisory ahead of your camping trip by checking at Campsites Vacancies and Alerts website.
Bring your own water
If you’re nervous about the water or have someone who gets stomach ailments easily you may want to bring your own water – at least for drinking. You can buy reusable collapsible or rigid water containers.
Please do not bring a pack of single use water bottles. We can’t always be perfect and be without a footprint, but please make Canadian Parks the one place where you really try not to leave a plastic footprint behind. Since there are no recycling bins at each campsite, it is more difficult to recycle your single use bottles and they are much more likely to end up in the landfill. Bring refillable bottles for every family member instead and refill from your big container or from the tap.
If you will be going into the backcountry, you may need to filter water that you get from a natural source. Read this for some choices:
How Ontario Parks ensures clean, safe drinking water
Paying homage to the life force that is water must include a word or two about drinking water. This month, the Insider highlights the team of dedicated professionals at Ontario Parks who fervently ensure that every visitor has access to the cleanest, safest drinking water possible.
With the health and safety of tens of thousands of annual visitors at stake, the consequence of error is unfathomable.
“A lot of people could be affected at a park so safeguards are in place,” says Ontario Parks Public Health Coordinator Frank Hamilton. “Ontario Parks samples water at a frequency rate much higher than required by provincial heath regulations, usually weekly instead of monthly.”
So how do they do it?
By leveraging a brain trust that includes certified public health staff, environmental engineers, designers, a construction inspector and more than 200 park operators who are specially trained in operating drinking water systems.
Here are some of the steps involved:
- The Drinking Water Program, run by the Parks Design Unit, identifies possible water sources and designs an appropriate treatment system to meet minimum regulatory requirements.
- The Parks Operators and Public Health Staff ensure that the systems comply with regulations.
- The systems are monitored closely through weekly sampling and results are tracked and analyzed for potential problems.
- Adverse results are handled centrally and reported immediately to the appropriate authorities.
- Procedures are in place to ensure the water distribution system is properly disinfected and flushed as needed.
“If you have camped at an Ontario Park and used a standard public facility served with plumbed water, it was one of our designs,” says Steve Filipowitz, P. Eng. Supervisor of Environment Design.
“Since the Walkerton tragedy in May 2000, the design unit has been busy navigating through successive changes in drinking water regulations similar to any small town, city or regional municipality. We have upgraded over 40 drinking water systems to meet these regulations and we are in the midst of planning and designing work to upgrade more public water systems to meet the newer regulations under the Health Promotion Protection Act.” Notwithstanding these checks and balances, it’s always a good idea to check for Boil Water Advisories on the Campsites Vacancies and Alerts website. Boil Water Advisories are issued by Parks’ health units after an adverse water test. It means not to drink the water and if you do, to boil the water for at least one minute before drinking, brushing their teeth or cooking. Advisories are issued simply as a precaution and usually mean the water does not conform to the new, stricter standards.
When you visit an Ontario Park you can rest assured that staff has planned carefully for your health and safety.