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Does Canada have the cleanest water in the world?

Canada is famous for its clean water, but American and Chilean researchers believe they found the cleanest water on earth more than ten-thousand kilometers away.

Near the town of Puerto Williams, located at the southern tip of Chile, scientists from the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity of the University of Chile, the University of Magallanes and the University of North Texas, sampled and tested what they believe to be earth’s cleanest water.

“Our results confirm that these waters are clean, the cleanest waters existing on the planet,” said Dr. Guido F. Verbeck, the principal investigator and director of the Laboratory of Imaging Mass Spectrometry at the University of North Texas. “In fact, the instruments we use to study the samples can detect chemical compounds in the water up to two parts per million, and here, we did not detect anything.”

The researchers think the unique geography of the region is a factor in the water’s purity.

“So far there are no records of other sites as clean as this, and that has to do with its geographical location, below latitude 55 degrees south, out of the air currents that carry industrial pollutants generated in the northern hemisphere,” said Tamara A. Contador, who worked on the study.

The findings from the U.S. and Chilean researchers contradict those of William Shotyk, Chair in Agriculture and Environment at the University of Alberta, Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences. Shotyk says water tested at the Elmvale Groundwater Observatory, a sampling station near Elmvale, Ontario, which is ninety minutes north of Toronto, is the cleanest on earth.

Cleanest water in the world: Elmvale?

“The water contains less lead, by at least a factor of five, than the cleanest ice layers from the Arctic,” says Shotyk. The University of Alberta professor notes that the cleanest water on earth is “generally believed to be ancient Arctic ice” because it predates human activity and is atmospheric water that is condensed.

Shotyk, however, notes that water sampled at Elmvale isn’t 8000 years old or even 5000. In fact, it is less than a century old, he says, pointing out that this was originally rainwater. So what is the secret of Elmvale’s famously clean water? A tremendously efficient soil filtration system that removes all traces of contaminants such as cobalt, chromium, and vanadium from even from what he believes to be the among the unhealthiest sources of H2O.

“It’s the dirtiest rainwater in Ontario’s history,” says Shotyk, who estimates that the cleanest water in the world fell sometime in the middle of the twentieth century when leaded gasoline usage peaked.

“The pure spring water of the Elmvale area has provided a new “reference level” against which other waters may be compared”, wrote Shotyk in a 2008 editorial. “How many people on Earth have the tremendous fortune of water resources of this quality, literally bubbling out of the ground around them? This precious natural resource is cause for celebration, and the ability of the soils to purify the water an opportunity for environmental education.”

Which country has the cleanest tap water in the world?

Okay, hiking a glacier and tapping deep into its core is not your thing? Not interested in a forty kilometer hike through the jungle to a mountain stream? Yeah, me neither. So what we really need to talk about is which country has the cleanest tap water.

Fortunately, numbers are kept on such things. The Global Open Data Index is an organization that captures publicly available government data on a variety of subjects. The project measures the quality of clean water in every country on earth and ranks them on a scale from one (being worst) to one hundred (being best). The things they look for are availability, fluoride levels, fecal coliform, arsenic, nitrates, and total dissolved solids.

At the end of the day it is no contest, with only one country in the world ranking above an 85 score. Finland, adding to their dominance in producing saunas and NHL hockey goalies, easily has the best water in the world, according to the survey. Where did Canada come in? A measly thirteenth, tied with Chile, incidentally. Above Canada was Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, Northern Island, Taiwan, United States, Great Britain, France, Greece, India and Singapore.

Which city in Canada has Canada’s best tap water?

Move over Elmvale, it looks like there’s a new champ in town. Okay, maybe this apples to oranges comparing spring to tap water, but far from Ontario, in the tiny town of Greenwood, British Columbia, its 700 residents are beaming. That’s because the town won the second annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting chose its water as the “best municipal tap water”. The town’s pleasingly named mayor, Nipper Kettle, says its because they do not treat it but pump it straight from a local aquifer.

Which U.S. city has the cleanest tap water?

First of all, this happens to us every time we are there. A New York City resident will tell you just how great the tap water is in Gotham. So we’re not tto surprised to see NYC on the list of cleanest drinking water in the United States. But no, it isn’t the best in the country. At least not according to website The Travel, which ranked the top twelve spots, placing New York at the bottom. So which city came in first place? That honor went to Memphis, Tennessee, which claims to have the sweetest drinking water around. Rounding out the top five were Macon, Georgia, Louisville, Oklahoma City, and Silverdale, Washington.

Does Canada really have dirty water?

Quick, think of the iconic images of Canada. Perhaps you though of the Banff Springs Hotel or Lake Louise. Maybe Peggy’s Cove or Cavendish Beach. Clean and pristine, right? Not so fast. A recent blockbuster investigation involving 120 journalists from multiple organizations found troubling things about the water you may be drinking. They tested for lead in eleven cities and the whopping 12,000 test taken found that 33 per cent exceeded our national safety guideline of five parts per billion and 18 per cent exceeded the U.S. limit of 15 ppb.

““I’m surprised,” said Bruce Lanphear, a Canadian water safety researcher told AP. “These are quite high given the kind of attention that has been given to Flint, Michigan, as having such extreme problems. Even when I compare this to some of the other hotspots in the United States, like Newark, like Pittsburgh, the levels here are quite high.”

So what is the problem here? Some say it’s a lack of federal oversight. In Canada, provinces are left to test their own water, whereas in the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency sets national standards.

“Because there is no federal oversight, everybody does what they want,” said engineering professor Michèle Prévost from Polytechnique Montreal. “Most provinces ignore this very serious problem.”

So what can be done? While most say more oversight would be welcome, some are taking action. The problem, across much of Canada, is old lead pipes are still servicing our homes. After the massive investigation into Canada’s water quality was released in 2019,  Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told the media that the city would begin to remove lead pipes on private and public land. And, like Toronto, an online map of the water quality was made available.

Lead pipes were banned in new builds way back in 1975, but as the Star noted, there is no comprehensive database of lead pipes in Canada and many in homes built in the 1970’s or before may want to get their water tested. In Hamilton alone, it is estimated that it will take four decades to remove the approximately 20,000 lead water pipes feeding homes.

Do home filters remove lead?

There is a sliver of good news in that you can do something today about the levels of lead in your water: get a water filter. Consumer Reports says many types of filters on the market are good at removing lead. The New York Times product rating site WireCutter rates the Pur Pitcher Replacement Filter with Lead Reduction as their top choice to get the job done.











Below: Professor William Shotyk talks about the cleanest water on earth…

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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