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The City of Markham’s water supply system is robust and efficient ensuring residents have safe, clean drinking water at the turn of a tap. In this section you will learn where Markham’s water comes from, how it is treated and delivered to your home as well as how the system is maintained.
Markham's Only Source of Drinking Water is Lake Ontario
Markham’s Source Water
Our drinking water source comes from Lake Ontario which is fed by rivers, streams and storm water ponds. Lake Ontario is part of Canada’s Great Lakes watershed, which is the largest fresh water system on Earth. Approximately 9 million people in Ontario and New York State rely on Lake Ontario for their drinking water. After years of abuse, Lake Ontario is under stress.
It is very important to protect all water sources within our communities from pollution in order to protect our drinking water source and the natural environment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 783 million people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water. In Markham, we are fortunate to enjoy clean drinking water straight from the tap.
Markham’s water comes from Lake Ontario and goes through a rigorous water treatment process at facilities located in the City of Toronto and sometimes Peel Region. Water from Lake Ontario contains many impurities that can be harmful to us if ingested without treatment. These impurities can be grouped into three categories:
Physical: materials that do not dissolve in water and make the water appear “dirty”;
Chemical: substances dissolved in the water from both natural and manmade processes;
Biological: viruses, bacteria, algae, and other small living organisms (City of Toronto).
The City of Toronto’s water treatment facilities disinfect source water using chloramine, a chemical compound that contains both chlorine and ammonia. Thus, Markham’s water undergoes chloramination.
Chloramination is the process of adding chloramine during the treatment process to disinfect and kill microorganisms (virus, bacteria, and algae growth). Chloramine is used instead of chlorine because it is more persistent within the extensive underground distribution system. This makes the water more resistant to contamination as it travels from Toronto to Markham.
Chlorine has been a safe and reliable tool for over a century, successfully stopping the spread of waterborne disease. To minimize chlorine odour in your drinking water, fill a pitcher and let it stand overnight in the refrigerator.
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in the environment and is found in soil, air and water. Fluoride is added at the end of the water treatment process to help prevent tooth decay. The addition of Fluoride is encouraged by many Canadian health and dental organizations, and is supported by long term scientific research studies conducted on the effects of fluoride on human health.
After treatment, the clean water is pumped to York Region. York Region acts as a wholesale supplier of water and provides further testing, storage, and pressure for Markham’s system. Markham then distributes water to residents and businesses.
Markham’s distribution system provides high quality treated water to approximately 346,000 residents and is comprised of over 1,000 kilometres of watermains, 11,000 watermain valves and 8,500 municipal fire hydrants. Markham is a distribution only system, without additional treatment, pumping and storage facilities. Markham’s water within the distribution system is tested for standard parameters, in compliance with Ontario Regulation 170/03. The samples are collected by licensed Waterworks operators and analyzed by the provincially accredited YorkDurham Regional Environmental Laboratory.
Watch “Markham’s Water Distribution System” to learn more!
Fire hydrants are owned, operated and maintained by the City of Markham Waterworks Department. A hydrant is a valve connected to the watermain which allows fire services and waterworks operators access to the main water supply.
Why are hydrants so important?
Hydrants provide a continuous supply of water to fight fires. Fire trucks carry only enough water to make an initial fire attack so firefighters must connect to a hydrant within the first few minutes of a fire emergency.
Accessing a hydrant without delay ensures that firefighters who are already inside a burning building tasked with search and rescue or attacking the fire can continue for as long as required.
Often firefighters find that hydrants are hidden or have been broken by unauthorized use and tampering. Remember, seconds count! This can delay firefighting efforts and can lead to serious consequences.
Love your Hydrant in 2 Easy Steps!
Keep 1.2 meters around your hydrant clear of snow, grass, shrubs, flowers and objects.
Report damage, tampering or unauthorized use right away.
Remember: Only the City of Markham Fire and Waterworks Departments are permitted to use hydrants. Any others can be charged and/or fined.
Markham’s water comes from Lake Ontario and is treated by the City of Toronto and Peel Region. Water is carried by large regional pipes to municipal watermains for storage and distribution to Markham’s homes, schools, and businesses. Markham has over 100 sampling stations where Waterworks staff test water quality, in addition to the testing done by Toronto and York Region.
Overall, Markham’s Water Department maintains about 1000 kilometres of water mains, conducts thousands of water quality tests, and distributes over 36 billion litres of water annually.
Drink Markham's Tap Water Because It's…
a great caloriefree alternative to sugary drinks or caffeine
delivered right to your home or workplace
1000 times less expensive than bottled water
Waterworks staff test Markham water several times a day
bottled water creates unnecessary waste and litter and requires energy for processing, packaging, chilling and transport.
Bottled Water vs The Tap
Bottled water is a common product today that only a few decades ago was a luxury. One contributor to this shift in our habits is an enormous investment in advertising by companies that sell bottled water. Markham provides water that always meets the highest standards of quality, so why pay more for a resource that we can access free of charge at public facilities, or for less than a penny per litre from the tap at home?
Choosing to drink tap water shows your support for a cleaner environment. We are proud to supply clean, safe, affordable water to all Markham residents.
“Our top priority is providing high quality drinking water to all our customers. We are constantly testing to ensure all standards and regulations are met for a safe, clean and healthy drinking water supply”.
Eddy Wu, Manager, Operations and Maintenance
Waterworks, City of Markham
Instead of bottled water....fill a refillable water bottle and bring it with you!
Some Drinking Water Facts
Fact: Only 1% of the earth’s water is available for human use (National Geographic, 2013)
Fact: In the world today, 783 million people do not have access to clean, safe water (UNESCO, 2013)
Fact: Canada has only 0.5% of the world's population, but its landmass contains approximately 7% of the world's renewable water supply (Environment Canada, 2012)
Fact: Only 51% of Canadians drink tap water directly from the tap (RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Survey, 2012)
Fact: 4/10 Canadians regularly ordered tap water over bottled water in restaurants (RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Survey, 2012)
Myths About Water
Myth: I need to boil my water to make it safe to drink.
Fact: Markham tap water is welltested and safe. It does not need to be boiled or filtered. Drink it straight from the tap!
Myth: There is plenty of drinking water on the Earth…
Fact: About 75% of the earth’s surface is water. 2% is drinkable but of that amount, only 1% is accessible.
Myth: I recycle my water bottles, so it's not a problem to drink bottled water.
Fact: Only a small percentage of bottles are recycled. Many end up as litter or in the garbage. Even if you recycle plastic bottles, the resources and energy required to produce and then remanufacture them is unnecessary. Municipal water provides drinking water for far less energy and cost.
Myth: Bottled water tastes better.
Fact: Do your own blind taste test at home – you may be surprised at what you find. Markham tap water compares well against brand name bottled water, in fact, many bottled water brands are sourced from municipal tap water. There are also easy ways to add some zest to tap water. Add slices of citrus fruits, cucumber, or berries for a refreshing drink. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge to save running the tap till it is cold.
Myth: I should avoid drinking my tap water if it is cloudy.
Fact: Cloudiness is caused when air becomes trapped in water. This can happen when it travels through pressurized water pipelines, and air remains trapped until it is released from your faucet. The cloudiness is caused by thousands of air bubbles giving the water a hazy appearance, but it does not affect the safety or taste of the water.