Learn where Prince George's drinking water comes from and how to keep it clean and safe to consume.
Importance of Water and Watersheds
Because the City of Prince George relies on groundwater for its water supply, protecting the local river valleys is vital. This is done at the "watershed-scale" level through a planning approach where human activity is balanced with preserving natural resources.
Every creek and drainage ditch in the city – including the storm sewer system – is part of the Nechako and Fraser River watershed. Prince George is also home to several lakes, creeks, and urban streams that provide spawning, rearing, and winter habitat for fish and other wildlife species. All of these are linked to groundwater resources that provide the city with clean and drinkable water.
Stormwater quality is greatly affected by what it picks up off the ground as it runs down roads and into the storm sewer. Water entering the sewer is not treated and discharges into natural watercourses where fish and other wildlife reside. Sediment and mud, salts, pesticides, fertilisers, grease, oil from vehicles, and other contaminants are picked up by stormwater runoff and eventually end up in fish habitat. Whatever goes down the catch basin and into the storm drain flows directly into creeks and the watershed.
- Wash vehicles at a commercial car wash where waste water is treated.
- Wash on grass or gravel so dirt or sediment can be filtered before entering the drain. Be sure to use biodegradable soap.
Riding and Washing Dirt Bikes and Quads
- When riding, keep away from creeks and catch basins.
- Clean dirt bikes and quads at commercial car washes or wash on a lawn.
Proper Trash Disposal
- Make sure to properly dispose of all trash. Wildlife can ingest or become smothered by litter.
Preventing Fuel Leaks
- Check vehicles, lawnmowers, snowblowers and other gas-operated machinery constantly for leaks and repair problems immediately.
- Recycle old oil, gasoline, and other chemicals at an approved facility.
- Avoid spillage when filling up at a gas station.
Preventing Soil Erosion
- Avoid or minimise clearing trees, grading slopes, or excavating and stockpiling materials.
- Install erosion and sediment control measures on construction sites.
Other Tips to Protect Streams
Incorporate simple solutions into day-to-day activities to help protect storm water quality:
- Do not spray clean driveways to remove salts and dirt, as the water will end up flowing into the storm drain.
- Use as little pavement as possible. Gravel, brick, or interlocking pavers allow rain to soak back into the ground rather than run off over solid concrete or asphalt.
- Direct rain gutters into rain barrels or onto the lawn.
- Dispose of household hazardous wastes such as paints, motor oils, antifreeze, and batteries at recycling collection depots.
- Collect and properly dispose of pet wastes.
- Reduce fertiliser and pesticide use.
Water conservation planning's goal is to achieve efficient water use in the City of Prince George. While water conservation is often thought of as being restrictive and residents may associate it with personal inconvenience and rationing, it's not just about using less water. Conservation also involves carefully managing water resources, and using water more efficiently.
Water Cycle and Water Systems
The water cycle continuously re-circulates and 'recycles' water between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere. Because of this and the fact water is a finite resource, it is crucial to preserve water quality as it transfers throughout the environment.
The City of Prince George monitors and protects its urban water systems – drinking water, waste water, and stormwater – through quality sampling, waste discharge permits, development permit areas, and bylaws.
The Urban Water Cycle
Prince George relies on groundwater for its water supply. Over 80 per cent of the city's water wells tap into aquifers that are refilled by the Nechako River. These aquifers provide nearly 18 billion litres of water each year to six municipal wells. Treated, safe-to-drink water is pumped to and stored in 14 service reservoirs throughout the city where it eventually makes its way to homes either directly from the reservoirs or through water supply well pumps.
Groundwater sources are vulnerable to tainting. One of the ways to fight against contamination is by decreasing water usage. Reducing water demand slows the movement of pollutants into and through the aquifers, which makes water that does flow through easier to treat.
The City of Prince George regulates development within groundwater capture zones to reduce the risk of contamination. Developing inside a Groundwater Protection Development Permit Area may require a Groundwater Protection Development Permit.
Q&A: Lead in Drinking Water
The City of Prince George conducted a comprehensive investigation into lead in drinking water at City-owned civic buildings and the results were brought to Council in December 2017.
From this investigation it was revealed that all drinking water fountains in City-owned facilities were below the Health Canada Maximum Acceptable Concentrations for lead. Of the sinks that were tested some did contain concentrations of lead above the acceptable limits after a stagnation period, however the lead concentration levels dropped to within the acceptable limit after flushing the tap until cold for 30 seconds to one minute.
The City replaced several taps/faucets and put up signage encouraging users to run the tap/faucet until cold at the locations of sinks that tested above the acceptable limits after a stagnation period.
For more information:
Is lead a concern in City drinking water?
No. Lead is not a concern in City drinking water.
The City’s water is supplied from groundwater aquifers, and lead concentrations in the raw groundwater samples are below the Maximum Acceptable Concentration of 0.005 mg/L (5 µg/L) set by Health Canada. Raw water samples are collected bi-annually and can be reviewed on the City’s website. The City’s water distribution system does not contain lead piping, which may be a source of lead to drinking water in other jurisdictions.
How can my family be exposed to lead?
Lead is a metal commonly found in the environment, both naturally and from human activities. People may be exposed to lead through the air, food, soils, household dust, consumer products and drinking water.
When lead concentrations in potable water systems are determined to be at levels of concern to human health, its presence may be attributed to leaching from plumbing solder containing lead, and brass fittings containing lead in plumbing fixtures, such as faucets, shut-off valves and back-flow preventers. Buildings and residential homes built before the 1990s commonly contain lead within their plumbing systems.
How do I know if my taps at home have lead?
Contact the Northern Health Authority to speak with an Environmental Health Officer about testing the water in your own home. When purchasing new plumbing fixtures look for the CSA Low Lead Requirement emblem.
How do I ensure that I am not exposed to lead in drinking water?
Run the tap for until cold for 30 seconds to 1 minute prior to using water for consumption and only use the cold water tap for drinking water and food preparation. Check your plumbing at home to ensure your plumbing fixtures have the CSA Low Lead Requirement emblem.
I’ve seen signs in City facilities that tell me to run the tap before consuming the water. What does this mean?
The City put up signs in public buildings, such as the Rolling Mix Arena, Kin Centre and the CN Centre to remind building users to run the tap until cold prior to consuming to flush out any possible lead particles in the interior plumbing. Signs were put up near taps that did contain concentrations of lead above the acceptable limits after a stagnation period, but saw lead concentration levels drop to within the acceptable limit after flushing the tap until cold for 30 seconds to one minute.
This is good practice on all taps, especially if the water has been sitting stagnant for several hours as the first 250 mL of water out of a tap typically contains the highest amount of lead. Signs also direct building users to the closest drinking water fountain.
Where was the lead coming from in the City investigation?
Plumbing fixtures are the suspected source of lead in some City-owned buildings. An additional investigation was undertaken at sinks in the CN Centre where lead levels exceeded the maximum acceptable concentration after a stagnation period. Faucets and shut-off valves were replaced, due to a suspicion that the lead exceedances were caused by the brass fixtures.
Following the replacement of these fixtures, lead concentration levels dropped to within the acceptable limits after a stagnation period in 3 of the 4 sinks. For the one sink where the lead concentration still exceeded the Maximum Acceptable Concentration for the static sample, it is expected that lead solder may have been used in the copper piping at the time of construction in the early 1990s.
All sinks were within the Maximum Acceptable Concentration after flushing for 30 seconds.
What is a static sample?
In the City’s investigation static samples were collected after a 6-8 hour stagnation period. Static samples captured the first 250 mL of water that remained in the plumbing fixtures overnight to determine the “worst-case scenario” of potential exposure to concentrations of lead in drinking water.
Static samples are not representative of the average or typical exposure of lead in drinking water in the tested facilities.
What is a flush sample?
Flush samples were collected after the static sample was taken, plus an additional 30 seconds of running the tap. These samples provide a much more representative sample of the drinking water from each tap.
Will the City be replacing all of the taps/faucets that had a concentration for lead higher than the Maximum Acceptable Concentration?
Faucets/taps that were most likely to be used for consumption (i.e. lunch rooms) have been replaced. Faucets and supply valves were replaced with CSA approved Low Lead Requirement fixtures. Static sample exceedances were typically found at sinks that had less use, as stationary or stagnant water will have more exposure time to faucets, valves or taps that may contain brass that do not meet the CSA Low Lead Requirement.
The City encourages that water fountains be utilized over sinks in washrooms and change rooms for consumption. All drinking fountains in City Civic Facilities do not contain concentrations for lead above the Maximum Acceptable Concentration.
Source Control Program
The City's Source Control Program plays an important role in protecting local watersheds. City staff work with local businesses, residents, and agencies to identify and control contaminants entering wastewater, stormwater, and groundwater at the source.
Controlling contaminants at the source before they enter the sanitary or storm sewer or before harmful substances are released to the environment is effective and less costly to manage.
For more information:
Stormwater and Drainage
Rainfall, snowmelt, and stormwater runoff from road, parking lots, and industrial areas enter the storm sewer system and eventually flow into streams and watercourses. Any water than enters a catch basin or drainage ditch is not treated and may contain harmful contaminants like sediment, oil, grease, salt, metals, and hydrocarbons. The City restricts contaminant discharge to the storm sewer system through the
City of Prince George Storm Sewer System Bylaw No. 2656, 1974.
Riparian habitats are the immediate lands – such as river banks – surrounding lakes, ponds, creeks, and rivers where moist soils and water-loving plant species protect the stream environment. In addition to serving as habitat for wildlife, riparian areas also play a role in the City's water management strategy through vital ecosystem support by:
- Providing stream bank stability.
- Filtering and purifying water.
- Soaking up and storing water during heavy rain or snowfall.
- Breaking down contaminants.
Ways to Protect Riparian Areas
The City's goals to enhance and protect its watercourses include plans designed to:
- Preserve remaining riparian areas along city creeks and to encourage restoration of riparian areas on both public and private lands.
- Improve water quality in creek systems and reduce instances of pollution from single and multiple sources.
- Support groups and events like BC River's Day, REAPS, and the Nechako Watershed Roundtable to help educate the public on local water-related issues.
Residents who have a riparian area in their yard can do their part to protect the surrounding stream by:
- Leaving all trees and shrubs in place.
- Not piling compost, lawn clippings, or debris in the area.
- Not using fertilisers.
- Not building sheds or similar structures in the riparian area without prior approval from the City of Prince George.
Riparian Protection Development Permits
Riparian areas are protected by the City of Prince George through Riparian Protection Development Permits to ensure these habitats are properly managed in development projects. The Official Community Plan defines a set of guidelines that apply to each type of development in Prince George and has designated all areas within 50 metres of fish-bearing watercourses and wetlands as Development Permit areas.
Riparian Protection is explained in the Zoning Bylaw under Section 8.9. For more information on development permits and how to apply for one, read Riparian Protection Development Permits – A Guide through the Process.
For information and guidance on wildlife, urban development, and riparian area protection:
To discuss a riparian development proposal with the City of Prince George, contact a planner at 250-561-7611.
Erosion and Sediment Control
Trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants maintain soil stability by keeping it in place through root systems. Soil with vegetation growing in it promotes water absorption and restricts soil movement. Removing such plant life exposes soil, contributes to rapid surface water run-off, and quickens erosion. Vegetation removal is the leading cause of accelerated erosion and sediment mobilization, which can have damaging impacts on infrastructure and the environment.
Prince George addresses erosion and sediment control issues resulting from development through a permit application process requiring each submission to have Erosion and Sediment Control Plans prepared by a qualified environment professional. Implementing control measures before vegetation is removed from soil is critical to mitigate the effects of sediment mobilization.
what is erosion and sediment control?
Erosion is the natural process where soil (or rock) is worn away by flowing water, ice, or wind. Construction activity that strips or removes soil-stabilising vegetation like trees and shrubs can increase the rate of soil erosion and sediment mobilization by one or two orders of magnitude.
Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) prevents sediment from contaminating stormwater and overland water flow by controlling the amount of soil exposed during construction. Sediment is a primary pollutant in watercourses. It can have a profoundly negative impact on aquatic habitats because sediment can bind with toxic pollutants like heavy metals. This is why, to protect aquatic environments, it is important to limit the amount of sediment entering the storm system and local watercourses.
what are the impacts of erosion?
Increased sediment mobilisation can:
- Disturb or destroy fish and invertebrate habitats by smothering spawning beds and incubating eggs. Sediment can also clog gills and suffocate aquatic animals.
- Fill in or block juvenile fish and invertebrate rearing habitats.
- Decrease water clarity, which impairs sight and the ability of fish to feed.
- Decrease bank stability.
- Deposit sediment in stream channels, which can change channel morphology and lead to increased flooding.
- Block stormwater catch basins and outfalls, which can also lead to increased flooding.