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Drinking Water

In our region, 73% of the population has access to drinking water through the municipal networks. The rest of the population uses private wells. Water from aqueducts can come from surface water, namely from rivers, lakes or reservoirs. However, it can also come from groundwater, which is the case in Fassett.

Aqueduct water originating from surface water can sometimes be contaminated by bacteria and it can also contain trihalomethanes. With respect to private wells, the main sources of contamination are bacteria and nitrates. Water from some wells can also be contaminated by uranium.

Water from aqueducts: excellent, but…

Usually, water from aqueduct networks is of a very high quality. Water system operators must test their water frequently in order to avoid any contamination. However, some situations can lead the head of an aqueduct network to issue a boil-water advisory: if certain bacteria is present in aqueduct water, or if there is an increase in water turbidity or work being done on an aqueduct system.

If a boil-water advisory is issued in your area, read this aide-mémoire.

Lead piping

In Quebec, the maximum concentration of lead permitted in drinking water is 10 μg/L (micrograms per litre). The main problem may originate from lead pipes installed before 1950 that bring water from the drinking water plant (or water treatment plant) to homes or, to a lesser extent, from lead welding in the pipes.

Since 1989, the Quebec plumbing code has forbidden the use of lead piping in new buildings. If your plumbing was installed prior to 1989, be cautious! Let the water run until it is cold, especially in the morning because the water will have been idle in the pipes for quite a while.

What are the health risks?

Lead exposure, even in small amounts, can have serious health consequences, especially for children and foetuses. In low concentrations, lead can cause serious complications like anaemia or disruption of the central nervous system and can lead to mental issues in children.

Check your well water!


Often, bacteria contamination does not alter the taste, smell or color of the water. The only way to be certain of water quality is to have it tested in a lab certified by the Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks Ouvre une nouvelle fenêtre..

Bacteria in well water comes mainly from decomposing animal and plant matter on the surface that penetrates wells due to poor layout or cracks in the wells.

To ensure that water from your well is free of bacteria:

• Have your water tested at least once a year, ideally after the spring thaw; and
• Ensure that your well is watertight so that rainwater cannot reach underground water without first being filtered by the soil.

If a test of your well water shows that it contains bacteria that is harmful to one’s health, you must immediately refrain from drinking it unless you bring it to a boil for at least one minute.

What are the health risks?

The presence of E. coli bacteria means the water has recently been contaminated by fecal matter. That water can cause health problems and lead to death. You must immediately refrain from drinking it and take corrective measures.


Farming fertilizers, manure and sanitary waste from a septic tank leak are the main sources of nitrates that can turn up in your well. Nitrates are soluble and end up at the surface and in the groundwater by rainwater infiltration or snowmelt.

If you suspect that your well water is contaminated by nitrates, have it tested.

Aide-mémoire: Quoi faire si l'analyse de votre eau indique une forte concentration de nitrates?

What are the health risks?

A high concentration of nitrates can lead to poisoning in babies called blue baby disease. The main symptoms are diarrhoea and vomiting. The skin can turn blue because not enough oxygen is delivered to the blood. Pregnant women are advised not to drink water that has a high concentration of nitrates. Adults may also be affected, even if the repercussions are less severe than in young children.

Chlorine in water

Chlorine is used as water sanitizer to kill bacteria that could spread. Some municipalities still get their supply from a body of water and proceed with chlorination of the water without filtering it. In this way, chlorine can form trihalomethanes by mixing with organic matter in the water.

What are the health risks?

Studies suggest a possible link between trihalomethanes and various cancers after decades of exposure. The risks linked to trihalomethanes are, however, minimum in relation to drinking untreated water. In light of these low risks, the benefits of drinking treated water should not be overlooked.

Useful links

Pdf document. Ouvre une nouvelle fenêtre. L'entretien et l'aménagement de votre puits 
PDF File: 439 KB | Available in French only 

Pdf document. Ouvre une nouvelle fenêtre. Notre santé et notre environnement en Outaouais - L'eau potable 
PDF File: 449 KB | Available in French only