Water from surface water sources (creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes or springs) or from shallow wells is unsafe to drink unless it has been disinfected or boiled. Waterborne, disease-causing organisms can be found in all surface waters in British Columbia any time of the year, whether the water appears dirty or not.
If your source water looks turbid (muddy, dirty or cloudy)...
The following information is for private residences that draw their domestic water from creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, springs or shallow wells that are turbid for any reason:
Cloudy water is unsafe to drink unless it has been boiled. Turbidity in the water impairs the ability of chlorine, bleach, or ultra-violet light (UV) to effectively disinfect the water to the point it is safe to drink.
Boiled water is safe to drink even if it still appears cloudy or dirty. Turbidity can be reduced if the boiled water is left to stand overnight in a refrigerator. The clearer water can then be poured through a clean coffee filter or decanted off the top leaving the sediment at the bottom.
If you are unable to boil water, you should use commercially available bottled water as an alternative water source, or clear tap water from a safe, potable water system not under a boil water notice.
If your source water looks clear ...
The following information is for private residences that draw their domestic water from creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, springs or shallow wells that are clear, not cloudy:
- Clear surface water may still contain waterborne, disease-causing organisms at any time of the year.
- To kill all common waterborne pathogens (protozoa, bacteria, viruses), you may:
- Boil your water.
- Use a properly maintained home UV disinfection followed by chlorine disinfection.
- Filters, activated carbon, and water softeners do not kill any pathogens.
- Reverse osmosis (RO) is not a reliable form of disinfection.
Want more info?
HealthLink BC has more information on disinfecting drinking water.