UBC Okanagan faculty, staff and students often express interest in the source and quality of their drinking water on campus.
As of December 11, 2017, the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District (GEID) has notified UBC that the Glenmore Water System Water Quality Advisory (WQA) has been rescinded. This was done in consultation with Interior Health. Water quality is now listed as “Good”.
GEID will continue monitoring and disinfection of the water system, as well as perform daily checks of the system. The WQA was first issued in 2006. Please visit GEID‘s website for further information.
Drinking water for the UBC Okanagan campus comes from Glenmore Ellison Irrigation District (GEID). The GEID is an independent Public Water Utility and is one of five water suppliers in the City of Kelowna.
Drinking Water Access
Untreated potable water on campus (tap water) has been listed as ‘good.’ For added protection on campus, many water fountains are filtered with a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC)-10 model filters. The filter reduces unwanted taste, colour and chlorine from the water. The yellow “This Fountain is Filtered” sign has been placed above all fountains that are filtered with GAC-10 filters.
Funded by the Students’ Union, Facilities Management, the Sustainability office, and Health and Wellness, alternate water purification systems are available at kiosks in every major building on campus. There is also a kiosk located in The Hangar (G121) that has been funded by Athletics & Recreation. There are no kiosks in the University House (aka Platypus House).
Tap water in the Residences is fed from GEID and is listed as ‘Good.’ It is not subsequently filtered. There are kiosks in the Cassiar, Similkameen, Purcell, Nicola, Kalamalka, Valhalla, and Monashee residences. Personal water filtration systems and bottled water is available at the Monashee Hedwig Store.
Water Treatment and Quality
To ensure drinking water meets provincial regulations and federal guidelines for safe water consumption, the GEID has a monitoring program within the distribution system as well as in the watershed. The Ministry of Health Services also regularly analyzes water from within the distribution system for bacteriological contamination and periodically for a wide range of chemical parameters.
Turbidity refers to fine suspended particles or organic and inorganic matter, plankton and other microscopic organisms that are picked up by water as it passes through a watershed. Turbidity is measured in NTU’s (Nephelometric Turbidity Units).
The Turbidity Index Guide located at each water source on campus is a visual tool designed to inform the community of turbidity levels.
Turbidity Rating Fair (1-5 NTU) – it is recommended that children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and anyone seeking additional protection drink boiled water or a safe alternative. This is the rating on campus prior to filtration. NOTE: while NTU’s are not harmful, they provide material for harmful bacteria and parasites to adhere to, therefore water sources with higher NTU’s have a greater risk of becoming infected.
GEID reminds the community that water in nature is never “pure.” As water travels over land and through ground it dissolves naturally occurring chemicals and picks up substances from the geology of the terrain as well as from the presence of animals and human activities, including minerals, vegetation and air emissions.
While most of these substances are harmless, some may pose a health risk. To address this risk, Health Canada publishes Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
These guidelines are based on current, published scientific research regarding health effects (Maximum Acceptable Concentrations), and also include aesthetic effects (Aesthetic Objectives) and operational considerations (Operational Guidance Values). The guidelines are designed to protect the health of the most vulnerable members of society.
Sampling and Testing
The GEID performs daily checks of the system and samples are collected three times per week. These collections are tested in house as well as sent out to be assessed against federal Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality. The Ministry of Health also regularly analyzes water from within the distribution system for bacteriological contamination, and tests periodically for a wide range of chemical parameters.
While water supplied by GEID meets health-related standards, it sometimes falls short of aesthetic objectives for color and turbidity, especially during spring run-off and after major rain events. While the District feels cost prohibitive water treatment for aesthetic concerns is best left to individual homeowners, it continues to research various means and sources of treatment in hopes of identifying an efficient and cost-effective system.
On campus, water testing is further augmented by Facilities Management and Health, Safety and Environment to look for chemical and microbiological parameters.
The GEID maintains certificates of water analysis for public review.