About Water

The Region of Waterloo works closely with the Cities and Townships to provide municipal drinking water to homes and businesses throughout the Region.

The Region of Waterloo is responsible for treating, disinfecting and supplying drinking water through a large trunk watermain network that distributes water to the Cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and the Townships of Woolwich and Wilmot. The Cities and Townships are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the water distribution systems, including watermains, valves, service connections and fire hydrants. The exception is North Dumfries and Wellesley Townships where the Region is responsible for both the supply and distribution systems. A long-term, coordinated strategy ensures sufficient pressure and supply to meet current and future population growth.

If you live on a farm or in a rural area you probably have your own well. Private wells are the responsibility of the well owner.

Water safety and COVID-19

Important steps for re-opening your building water supply - read this important fact sheet

As a building owner and operator, you are responsible for the water quality in your building and should understand what could happen when water is left stagnant. The longer the building has low water use, the higher the risk for water quality issues. During COVID-19, reduced or no water use in buildings may present health risks.  This fact sheet provides information related to reopening your building’s water supply.

Additional resources:

If COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets, does the Region of Waterloo need to protect our water system?

The virus is carried in mist when people breath, cough or sneeze. See Public Health's FAQs for more about how this virus spreads. These droplets are not likely to reach our water treatment plants. But if they do, the Region's water treatment processes will remove the virus and keep our water supply safe.

Does our current water treatment remove the virus?

Yes, the Region’s water treatment removes viruses, including the coronavirus. That means the virus does not pose any threat to our drinking water. Tap water is clean, reliable and safe to drink, just like always, the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association has confirmed. Dedicated staff still deliver clean municipal water to homes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - no need to go to the store for bottled water.

We follow advice from Health Canada to ensure public safety. Health Canada's Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality has more details on how water treatment keeps us safe from viruses. The Region of Waterloo also meets or exceeds drinking water requirements set by the province. Our annual Water Quality Reports give the results.

Could the virus survive in our water system?

No, the Region constantly checks our water to be sure proper treatment is keeping it safe. The Region’s water treatment removes the coronavirus, as well as other viruses. Chlorine also keeps our water safe and clean, and the Region monitors chlorine levels at all times. Our annual Water Quality Reports will tell you more.

Journey of water to your tap
  1. In Waterloo Region, there are two sources for drinking water - the Grand River and groundwater wells.
    • About 20 to 25 per cent of Waterloo Region's drinking water is from the Grand River. Water from the Grand River goes through a multi-step treatment process at the Mannheim Water Treatment Plant. Before entering the distribution system, the treated water from the Grand River is mixed with groundwater from nearby wells.

    • About 75 to 80 per cent of Waterloo Region's drinking water is groundwater. Municipal wells throughout Waterloo Region extract the groundwater. To build a well, a pipe is placed in a drilled hole. A pump at the bottom of the well helps to push the groundwater to the top of the well. Groundwater requires less treatment than surface water, but it is sometimes filtered to remove iron and manganese, minerals found naturally in aquifers.

    • The blend of surface water and groundwater varies within Waterloo Region based on operational factors such as well maintenance, so percentages are approximate.
  2. To keep the water safe while travelling through the distribution system to your tap, a minimum level of residual chlorine or chloramine must be maintained.
  3. As the water travels through the underground pipes that are part of the distribution system, it might first stop at a water tower before arriving at your home.

illustration showing journey water takes from the source to the tap

Click on the above image to view infographic as PDF file

Wells supply water from groundwater aquifers

Unlike water in rivers and lakes, groundwater is hidden and doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. You can find groundwater in an aquifer – an area underground with layers of materials such as sand, gravel, clay and bedrock. Groundwater is the rain or melted snow that soaks into the ground filling the spaces between those materials, moving ever so slowly – about a few metres every year.

100+ municipal wells throughout Waterloo Region supply about 100 million litres of drinking water each day.

To collect the groundwater:

  1. A hole is drilled into the ground until you reach the groundwater in the aquifer. Region of Waterloo municipal wells are typically 30 to 90 metres deep.
  2. Once the hole is drilled, a pipe is placed inside the hole.
  3. A pump helps to push the groundwater up the pipe (well) to the top where it is treated and tested before travelling through underground pipes to your home. In some cases groundwater is filtered to remove iron and manganese, minerals found naturally in aquifers. 

Top of municipal supply well

Top of supply well.

Mannheim Water Treatment Plant treats water from the Grand River
  1. A weir redirects water from the Grand River to a large reservoir. The reservoir holds two to fours days of water supply and allows time for sand and silt to settle out of the water.
  2. After leaving the reservoir the water travels 10 km to the Mannheim Water Treatment Plant where it goes through a complex multi-step process. The Mannheim Water Treatment Plant can treat 500 to 840 Litres per second.
  3. The water is disinfected using a multi-barrier approach including filtration, ozonation, chlorination and ultraviolet light.
  4. The finished water enters a large underground storage reservoir where it is mixed with treated groundwater before entering the distribution system.
  5. To keep treated water safe while travelling through the distribution system to your tap, a minimum level of residual chlorine or chloramine must be maintained.

Mannheim Water Treatment Plant

Aerial photo of the Mannheim Water Treatment Plant.

How we move water

Waterloo Region's water supply and distribution system uses specialized equipment and pipes to move water from the source, through treatment and to your taps. The water supply distribution system is complex with many supply sources, pressure zones, reservoirs, elevated storage tanks and pumping stations.

The cities and towns of Cambridge, Elmira, Kitchener, St. Jacobs, Lloyd Brown, Waterloo, St Agatha, Baden, New Hamburg, Mannheim and Shingletown comprise one large Integrated Urban System. The Region also has smaller stand alone systems including Ayr, Branchton, Roseville, Linwood, St. Clements, Wellesley Foxboro, New Dundee, Conestogo, Heidelberg, Maryhill and West Montrose.

Why we have water towers

As the treated water moves through the distribution system it might first go through one of the Region of Waterloo’s many reservoirs, water towers or a pumping station before arriving at a home or business. Reservoirs, water towers and pumping stations help to regulate water pressure required to move the water throughout the distribution system.

Reservoirs, which include water towers, found below or above ground throughout the distribution system provide additional water storage.

Testing water to make sure it is safe

Ontario's Safe Drinking Water Act  requires municipalities to test drinking water for numerous parameters on a predetermined schedule. The Region of Waterloo proactively performs more testing than is required by the legislation, and includes additional non-regulated parameters in its drinking water monitoring program. An accredited lab must perform the testing.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks  also requires municipalities to produce annual water quality and summary reports. These reports summarize the results of all required drinking water tests and confirm the drinking water supplied by the Region of Waterloo and area municipalities is safe and meets all health-related Ontario Drinking Water Standards.

Each year the Region of Waterloo releases water quality reports that compare the level of quality for the drinking water in Waterloo Region to the Ontario Drinking Water Standards in the legislation O.Reg.169/03.

Environmental Enforcement and Laboratory Services

Environmental Enforcement and Laboratory Services (EELS) responsibilities are environmental protection through monitoring, enforcement and laboratory analysis in support of Regional, Provincial and Federal legislation including:

Environmental Enforcement

The Sewer Use By-law 1-90 regulates and controls the discharge of water and wastewater into the sanitary and/or storm sewer distribution system in Waterloo Region. The by-law protects the wastewater treatment system and the water quality of the Grand River.

The Region's new Sewer Use By-law 21-036 takes effect Jan. 1, 2022 and will replace the previous Sewer Use By-law 1-90 and its amendments. You can use this online form to apply for a permit under the new Sewer Use By-Law.

The Region of Waterloo provides 24-hour emergency response to environmental spills. Responsibilities include a prompt investigation of reported spills, containment or cleanup measures to minimize damage to the natural environment and notifying affected parties if a chemical spill could affect the Region of Waterloo Mannheim and/or Brantford drinking water treatment plants. Report a spill immediately if you witness or suspect a spill has occurred or is about to occur.

Laboratory Services

Laboratory Services, an accredited laboratory for Region of Waterloo, provides biological, inorganic and organic testing. 

  • Accreditations include ISO 17025, registered with Canadian Association for Laboratory Association (CALA) since 1996 and licensed by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change in 2003 for drinking water analysis.
  • Biological testing includes E.coli, Total Coliforms, HPC, Microcystin, BOD, and CBOD.
  • Inorganic testing includes nitrate, nitrite, chloride, fluoride, sulphate, nutrients, and metals.
  • Organic testing includes chlorination by-products, pesticides, herbicides, 1-4 Dioxane, industrial contaminates, and gasoline by-products.
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Quality Management System Policy

The Region of Waterloo Water Services uses a Quality Management System (QMS) for its drinking water systems that supports the Region's dedication to provide high quality drinking water to consumers. The Region is committed to effectively:

  • manage potential risks and provide safe drinking water to consumers
  • manage water operations and maintenance activities to comply with applicable legislation, regulations, guidelines and standards
  • maintain and continually improve the Quality Management System
  • communicate relevant policies and programs to internal and external stakeholders as applicable
  • review this policy at least annually to ensure it continues to be appropriate for the subject drinking water systems

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