Sipping on the North Saskatchewan

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There is much uncertainty surrounding Edmonton’s drinking water. Is it safe drinking water? Why is there sediment in the water? Does the water taste good? The drinking water for the City of Edmonton goes through two water treatment plants run by EPCOR. One is the Rossdale Water Treatment Plant located downtown Edmonton and the other is the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant located in Cameron Heights. All of the water piped to our homes, offices, and schools come from these facilities.

I joined a tour of the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant to witness the water treatment processes first-hand. I learned about how the water from the North Saskatchewan River can be piped to our taps to deliver Edmontonians drinkable water. Not only have they achieved drinkable water, but Edmonton’s drinking water has allegedly won best tasting water in Canada in blind taste tests.  


Tap vs. bottled water is still a debate in Edmonton. There are many communities in Alberta, in Canada, and across the world that do not have clean drinking water. Also, Edmonton has moderately hard water since the river is born from a glacier. Therefore, people coming from communities with softer water or unsafe drinking water may still have the habit or may prefer the taste of drinking bottled water. The water from our taps is drinkable. However, if you dislike the taste or the sediment of the mineral-rich water, a solution could be a carbon filter which neutralizes the odour and taste. Edmonton has rigorous testing and advisory protocols with the goal of preventing events like the catastrophic Walkerton tragedy, which resulted in 7 deaths and thousands of illnesses from E. coli contamination in the drinking water. 



The water from the North Saskatchewan River undergoes a 12 step treatment process at the water treatment plants before it reaches our taps at home. The process includes intake, screens, lowlift pumps, chemical injection, rapid mix, flocculation, sedimentation, disinfection, filtration, reservoir storage, dechlorination, and highlift pumps. Click here to learn about these processes in detail. The Water Treatment Operators must be certified with Alberta Environment and Parks with the goal of reducing environmental impacts of water treatment on the river’s ecosystem.


During the tour, I learned an interesting statistic connected to my water footprint article from a few weeks ago. The Canadian average residential water demand is 274 Litres per capita per day, and Edmonton’s residential water demand is 195 Litres per capita per day. This suggests that Edmontonians use less water at home than most Canadians. Bravo Edmonton!













The OperationsEngineer and tour guide had never witnessed contamination of the drinking water at the plant. Edmonton has not had any serious drinking water advisories, but they informed me that there have been problems with residential pipes. Not all Edmontonians have the same quality of water. This is because of the pipes in many buildings in our city, specifically the lead pipes. Lead pipes were installed in buildings before the 1960s, and according to EPCOR about 1% of homes in Edmonton still have some form of lead in their plumbing. The presence of lead plumbing materials could pose long-term health risks, particularly for children and pregnant women. If you have concerns about the pipes in your building, EPCOR can test your water for lead. 

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