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In a land with so much fresh water, it doesn’t seem as if there is a need for conservation. But reducing our water use is an effective way to:

– Reduce demand on water treatment and supply systems

– Reduce demand on wastewater (sewage) collection and treatment systems

– Reduce your household charges for water and sanitary sewer

– Conserve the largest freshwater system on Earth

Where Does Our Water Come From / Who Does What?

The federal government (https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/water-overview.html) has jurisdiction related to fisheries, navigation, federal lands, and international relations, including management of boundary waters shared with the United States, and relations with the International Joint Commission. It also supports aquatic research and technology, and ensures national policies and standards are in place on environmental and health-related issues.

In 1993, the Province created the Ontario Clean Water Agency (a crown corporation), which focuses on the operation of water and sewage systems of more than 450 water and wastewater treatment facilities in the province.  Through the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the province regulates these systems to ensure water safety and quality including the registering of all municipal drinking water systems, system owners/operators licensing, operator authorization to run and maintain drinking water systems and issues of drinking water works permits to modify, repair or extend drinking water systems. The province also releases yearly reports on drinking water (https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministers-annual-report-drinking-water-2020.)

London has had several sources of drinking water over the past 150 years. In the days of the early settlers, the Thames River was used for drinking water as well as for transportation. Since that time, both surface water (lakes and rivers) and groundwater (wells) sources have been used.  Springbank Park, Pond Mills and the Beck Wells Systems were used as water sources. In 1967, the size and the needs of the City contributed to the requirement of a pipeline from Lake Huron. In 1995, the surface water supply system was expanded to Lake Erie. Along with water supply from these two Great Lakes, London has 2 back-up well systems in the north east and west parts of the City.  Groundwater wells are only used as an emergency water source for London.

Our water comes to us through a network of treatment plants, reservoirs, pumping stations and pipes –1,550 km of pipes – initially built in the 1870’s. Since then it has been maintained and improved and serves us now well into the future. The City’s water system also has 8,500 fire hydrants and 110,000 water meters. The City has been fully metered since 1925.  

Water at Lake Huron enters our water supply system just north of Grand Bend. It is clarified and purified at the Grand Bend Filtration Plant and then pumped through a 1.2 meter diameter pipeline to the 109 million liter reservoirs at Arva (just north of London). This water supply system – from Grand Bend to Arva – is called the Lake Huron Water Supply system. From Arva, the water is then pumped into the City of London water distribution system.

Lake Erie water is drawn from the lake and purified at the Elgin plant located east of Port Stanley. The Elgin Water Supply System, supplies the cities of St. Thomas and London and several smaller communities. Before water reaches London, it is stored in a reservoir northeast of St. Thomas. London’s water treatment falls under the jurisdiction of two Boards: the Lake Huron Primary Water Supply System Joint Board of Management and the Elgin Area Primary Water Supply System Joint Board of Management. Together, these two water supply systems provide approximately 150 million litres of treated water every day (85% from Lake Huron and the remainder from Lake Erie). Visit: https://huronelginwater.ca/?s=education

Both our water treatment and water distribution systems are maintained to safeguard our water and prevent contamination. The Joint Boards manage the water system from the Great Lakes source to the city boundary while the City manages the distribution system which ensures the water quality and quantity for our residents. On an annual basis, the City of London performs over 12,000 water quality tests to ensure quality, safety and taste. London also has 10 locations in which continuous online sampling of chlorine residual is monitored. All samples are submitted to an accredited laboratory for analysis in accordance with the province’s Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002. Other provincial standards for water quality are set out in the Ontario Regulation 169/03 (water quality standards) and Ontario Regulation 170/03 (drinking water systems).

Our drinking water goes through a treatment process involving settling tanks and filtration to remove particles. Chemicals used in the treatment process provide a safe drinking water. Alum is used to help settle out finer sediments, chlorine to kill microorganisms and fluoride to help prevent cavities.  Visit: https://london.ca/living-london/water-environment/water-system

Where Does Our Water Go?

Every human needs about 2.4 litres of water each day to survive. In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized the human right to have access to clean drinking water. The Assembly stated that a sufficient amount of water for both personal and domestic use is 50-100 litres per person per day. In contrast, the average Canadian uses 329 litres of water per day.  If we include industrial water use in this figure, it increases by approximately 50%. Canada is the second highest consumer of water per capita, only exceeded by the USA.

Water used in our sinks, dishwashers, washing machines and toilets goes to a sewage treatment plant. This wastewater is treated before being discharged into the Thames River. Water that runs off our eavestroughs, lawns, driveways and streets enters the storm sewer system and is discharged directly into the Thames River.

It is clear that we can make changes to use water more efficiently. This will help us maintain a sustainable supply of clean water, something essential to our survival.

Stormwater originates from the natural flow of water from rain and snow. London’s waterways include thousands of catch-basins, hundreds of kilometers of sewer pipes, numerous channels, more than 60 management pools, 110 km of creeks and the Thames River. London has over 1,230 km of sanitary sewer (284 km of trunk sewers, 300 mm or greater in diameter), and 36 pumping stations with over 45 km of force main. The City of London operates six wastewater treatment plants which are located along the Thames River.

Conserving Water

Average Use / Reserve Fund

Water use across Canada averages 30% in toilet use, 35% in baths and showers, 5% in cleaning, 10% kitchen and drinking use and 20% for laundry use. In London, the average person uses over 250 litres of water each day in their home. To learn more about your water rates – visit https://london.ca/living-london/water-environment/your-water-bill

The City has a 25-cent fixed fee that is applied to each monthly bill for all single family residential water customers in London. These funds are collected over the year and applied to a customer assistance program. If the money from these funds has been used up at any point in the calendar year, then the program is suspended until January 1st of the following year when the funds are topped up again.

The charge contributes to a special reserve fund and is drawn against to:

  1. Help low-income Londoners deal with crisis situations on their monthly water bills using existing programs managed and delivered through partnerships with London Hydro, the Salvation Army, and the City. An annual fund of $100,000 is kept and topped up each year to help those in need;
  2. Help low-income Londoners make changes to the fixtures in their homes to help lower  their monthly water use. On average 40% of home water use is from the toilet; and
  3. Help London’s water customers pay for water and wastewater charges one time, that have occurred as a result of a plumbing failure in their homes.

Did you know?

A tap that drips a mere 6 drops per minute will lose 1,200 litres of water a year. Referenced from The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.

Ways to protect our water quality

Practically everything we do affects the environment and our water supply. According to EcoHome, an Ottawa business creating more sustainable homes, a low-flow showerhead will “save up to 42,340 litres of hot water and 1,180 kWh of power per year.” For a one-time purchase item ranging in price from $10-$50, it quickly pays for itself.

What else can we do?

Don’t pour substances like paint, paint thinner, and degreasers, solvents, or pesticides down the drain – take them to the City’s household hazardous waste drop off site

– Keep fats, oils and grease out of drains and toilets. Put kitchen grease in the garbage.

– Don’t flush old/expired medicine down the toilet, return to your pharmacy or throw away

– Don’t use coloured toilet paper (the dyes are pollutants and take longer to decompose)

– Avoid any pesticide use at your home

– Buy organic (pesticide-free) fruits and vegetables

– Maintain septic systems regularly (have sludge pumped every 2 years to prevent harmful pathogens and bacteria from entering the environment) and don’t use septic system cleaners

– Eliminate the use of salt on driveways and sidewalks (it increases the levels of sodium and chloride in soil and water which harms plants and wildlife) – use sand or corn ice-removal or other natural substitutes that are safer for your children, pets, and soil

– Use phosphate free soaps (especially in dishwashers, washing machines) to reduce sewage treatment processing and harm to the environment

– Don’t use antibacterial soaps or cleaning products (may contain triclosan, a pesticide that harms aquatic life)

– Avoid hazardous cleaning products and never pour them down the drain, choose non-toxic household products as much as possible

– Make your own natural cleaning solution with vinegar and water

Saving Water Inside

  Install low-flow aerators on the sink faucet and showerhead to reduce water flow

– Shorten showers and consider turning the water off while using soap, shampoo etc

– Opt for taking showers instead of baths. Note that an 8 minute shower uses 76 litres, whereas taking a bath uses 150 litres.

– Install a low flow showerhead which uses 60% less water  and 15% less hot water than a standard one. 

– Install a low flow toilet using only 4.8 litres or less per flush

– Avoid flushing unnecessarily (do not use the toilet as a wastebasket)

– Add water to a second sink rather than running water when rinsing dishes

– Fill the sink for shaving and don’t run water continually when brushing your teeth

– Collect water used for washing vegetables to water plants

– Avoid using garbage disposals, for instance, garburators that waste energy and water

– Wash dishes and clothes only when you have a full load

– Keep a container of drinking water in the fridge instead of running water until its cold

Did You Know?

An average London household gets their daily water needs for less than a dollar a day, less than the price of a bottle of drinking water. Water bottles are almost 2,000 times more energy intensive to produce than tap water. WaterDocs tells us In Ontario alone, a billion plastic water bottles are sent to landfill every year, that tap water is strictly regulated by Health Canada, whereas bottled water is not and it takes three times the water to make a bottle than to fill it.   

Saving Water Outside

Use mulch in the garden to reduce water needs

– Sweep sidewalks and driveways rather than washing them down with a hose

– Wash your car with a bucket instead of a garden hose

– Select plants (trees and shrubs) that are drought-resistant, consider xeriscaping

– Group plants that need the same amount of water together to be more efficient when watering

– Make sure soil has plenty of organic matter to hold water

– Water plants and lawns early or late in the day to reduce evaporation

Water plants deeply but not as frequently in order to get healthier and stronger plants

– Don’t overwater, shorter root systems make a plant more susceptible to dry conditions

– Make sure outside taps are turned off inside in preparing for winter freezing weather

– Consider purchasing a rain barrel to save water for your garden sources

– Pick up after your pet – rain washes pet waste and bacteria into our storm drains

– Remember in London, between June and the end of August, water use outdoors is restricted to even calendar days for even numbered homes, odd calendar days for odd numbered homes

In the past the City has offered a summer Growing Naturally Free’ Home Water Audit – check in with the City if they are being offered this year – https://m.facebook.com/LondonCanada/photos/a.128996325801/10156478497340802/?type=3&locale2=hi_IN

Rain Barrels— Most Home Depot, Costco and Home Hardware locations sell rain barrels. Make sure you purchase one with a fine mesh screen on the top to prevent insects and debris from getting in. Rain barrels collect and store rainwater from rooftops that would otherwise flow to storm drains and streams. Gardeners are the most frequent adopters. Rain barrels are often combined with other green infrastructure projects such as rain gardens and permeable pavement and can save most homeowners about 4,900 litres of water during peak summer months. Drain your rain barrel before each rain event to allow for full capacity storage. Ensure the barrel has an overflow system, and direct it away from your home’s foundation and your neighbour’s. As temperatures drop, drain the barrel, turn it upside down to avoid cracks from freezing water.

Swimming pools— Dechlorinate your pool before you empty it, empty it on a dry day, release the water onto permeable surfaces for natural infiltration and avoid your neighbour’s property when draining your pool. Tips from the Town of Ajax.

Did you know?

A moderate storm of 25 mm (1 inch) of rain produces over 2,000 litres of runoff from a roof surface of 93 square metres of water.


Antler River Guardians from 4 Directions https://www.thamesrevival.ca/
City of London https://london.ca/living-london/water-environment/water-system                                                                                 519 661-2489 #5081, water@london.ca
Council of Canadians (London chapter) https://www.londoncouncilofcanadians.ca/  or fb
Environment Climate Change of Canada https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change.html
Friends of the Coves http://www.thecoves.ca/
Friends of Stoney Creek http://thamesriver.on.ca/education-community/watershed-friends-of-projects/stoneycreek/
Lake Huron & Elgin Area Water Systems https://huronelginwater.ca/
London Hydro https://www.londonhydro.com
London-Middlesex Children’s Water Festival https://www.childrenswaterfestival.ca/
Middlesex-London Health Unit https://www.healthunit.com/municipal-water
Ontario Clean Water Agency http://www.ocwa.com/
Provincial Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks https://www.ontario.ca/page/municipal-drinking-water-systems-licencing-registration-and-permits
Thames River Angler Association http://www.anglers.org/
Trojan Technologies https://www.trojantechnologies.com
Upper Thames Conservation Authority http://thamesriver.on.ca/watershed-conservation-centre/
World Water Day https://www.worldwaterday.org/