Manitoba
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Water Stewardship Division

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Public Water System Data

Some of Manitoba's public water systems do not meet one or more of the drinking water quality standards that came into effect in 2012. This affects approximately one quarter of over 400 public water systems in Manitoba. Most of these are surface water systems that serve small communities. The health risks associated with these exceedances are low. Most systems are upgrading or planning to upgrade their systems and it is expected that the number of systems in compliance will increase steadily.

The most common exceedance is trihalomethanes (THMs).THMs form when chlorine is added to water containing high levels of naturally-occurring organic matter. THM levels are measured at the end of the distribution system where levels are likely to be highest, so not all people on the system will be exposed to the same level. THM levels can vary widely throughout the year. The THM guideline value is set at a precautionary level. For more information See the THM fact sheet.

Inadequate filtration of surface water systems is another common problem. Systems that are not properly filtered will not meet the protozoa or turbidity standard. Not all systems that are out of compliance are the same. Some systems have filters that reduce the risk but are not able to fully meet the standard. Other systems do not have filters at all or have filters that do not work that well. For most people, there is a low risk of gastrointestinal illness, however, immune compromised individuals may become severely ill. For more information, see Protozoa and Turbidity fact sheets.

A small number of well water systems exceed the guideline levels due to nitrate or naturally occurring trace elements. Pregnant or nursing mothers and infants should avoid drinking water that is high in nitrate. Children eight and under may develop discolouration of the teeth if they regularly drink water with high fluoride. Long term exposure to elevated arsenic in drinking water can slightly increase the lifetime risk of cancer. Exposure to high levels of uranium in drinking water may lead to kidney damage. For more information see the fact sheets on Arsenic, Fluoride, Nitrate and Uranium.

For all of these water standards, measures can be taken to reduce exposure by water users. These measures are outlined in the fact sheets. Manitoba Sustainable Development is working with Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living and water system owners to provide information to their system users and continuously improve drinking water systems in the province.