Water quality

Current water notices

Boil Water Notice (BWN): Southeast Kelowna - Existing SEK non-potable water system

The existing Southeast Kelowna (SEK) water supply system is now designated as a non-potable irrigation system and has been placed on a year-round BWN, this water supply does not meet drinking water guidelines and should not be used as drinking water. Properties still using the SEK water supply for drinking purposes are asked to take precautions as recommended by Interior Health.

Addresses included in BWN 

Information about water notices

Water Quality Advisories, Boil Water Notices and Do Not Use Notices can be in place throughout the Central Okanagan at any given time. Check with your water service provider for the most up-to-date information. City Utility customers can receive automatic email updates on drinking water quality by signing-up for e-subscribe notifications or calling the Water Quality Hotline at 250-469-8475.

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Types of alerts
Water Quality Advisory

Used in situations where the public health threat posed by the water supply system is modest, and actions can be taken to reduce the risks through means other than requiring a Boil Water Notice or Do Not Use Water Notice. The City Water Utility will advise when the Water Quality Advisory is lifted through website updates and media releases. 

Who should take precaution

  • People with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses
  • People under 12 and over 65 years of age
  • People wishing for additional protection

How to take precaution

  • Boil water for one minute and allow to cool before use
  • Use an alternative water source (e.g. bottled water) 
Boil Water Notice

Used in situations where the public health threat posed by the water supply system is elevated and the nature of the threat is one that can be effectively addressed through boiling of the water. The City Water Utility will advise when the Boil Water Notice is lifted through website updates and media releases. 

Scenarios where water should be boiled

  • Drinking
  • Beverage preparation
  • Washing and preparation of food
  • Brushing teeth
  • Making of ice
  • Constitution of baby formula

How to take precaution

  • Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute and allow to cool before use
  • Use an alternative water source (e.g. bottled water)
Do Not Use Notice

Used in situations where a significant public health threat exists in relation to the water supply system, and the threat cannot be adequately addressed through a Water Quality Advisory or Boil Water Notice. Water is turned off at the source as it poses a serious health risk. You must not drink or use the water for any purpose. The City Water Utility will advise when the Do Not Use Notice is lifted through website updates and media releases. 

Comparison of City and SEK water quality

A side by side water quality comparison was done between the City water system and the SEK water system as many residents who once were on the SEK water system are now receiving City water.

The most significant visual difference when comparing City potable water to SEK irrigation water is the colour and the turbidity. Colour is noticeably higher in the non-potable irrigation water and quite pronounced during April through May during freshet due to natural organic material. Similar observations apply to Turbidity as upland water sources tend to pick up sediment material as it passes through channels and riverbeds to the point of intake.

SEK Irrigation Water Quality Changes

As SEK irrigation services are seasonally turned off through October, the water flow through the distribution system respectively slows down. The lack of active water circulation prevents adequate distribution of chlorine throughout the system and therefore the chlorination system is turned off as of mid-October. The system remains pressurized throughout the year and chlorine is re-introduced in April/May as irrigation systems are made active again. 

Water quality monitoring

Water intended for drinking is measured against physical, chemical, radiological and microbiological standards outlined in the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. To that end, your water is tested regularly for bacteria (e.g. total coliform and e-coli) with <1.0 MPN/100 mL, and turbidity; guidelines recommend that water intended for drinking have a turbidity level < 1 NTU.

We have online monitoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, Water Quality staff collects samples weekly to confirm the online data. The City also creates an Annual Water Report providing a detailed analysis of all the results from the year through-out the treatment and distribution system. 

 

How much chlorine is in the water?

The water is chlorinated at the lake intake sites between 1.50 and 2.00 mg/L, depending on seasonal changes in water quality. Chlorine concentration ranges throughout the distribution system between 0.10 mg/L and 0.90 mg/L. Concentrations greater than 0.10 mg/L must be maintained to ensure disinfection of the water as it’s pumped through the watermains.

The taste and odour threshold for chlorine is 0.60 mg/L; sensitive individuals can smell or taste (usually smell) chlorine around 0.40 mg/L. Chlorine is very volatile and readily dissipates into the air; therefore people can smell it in the shower. Chlorine is easily removed by boiling the water, leaving it overnight in an open container (in the fridge) or by using a charcoal filter.

What is the level of trihalomethanes (THMs) from chlorination?

The concentration of total THM’s in Kelowna’s drinking water ranges between 30 ppb and 60 ppb. The Health Guideline is 100 ppb and we’re far below this conservative level.

How much fluoride is in the water?

The natural occurring fluoride in Okanagan Lake is between 0.20 mg/L and 0.30 mg/L. Our water utility briefly supplemented the fluoridation of drinking water, but discontinued the practice in 1996.

How hard is the water provided by the City of Kelowna Water Utility?

The water contains 110-130 mg/L or five to seven gpg (grains per gallon) of total hardness. Both calcium and magnesium are measured for total hardness. Water is considered soft at 60 mg/L, hard at 200 mg/L and unacceptable at 500 mg/L.

Are herbicides and pesticides found in Okanagan Lake?

We have been monitoring for herbicides and pesticides since the beginning of the Water Quality Program in 1991. No trace of herbicides and/or pesticides has ever been found at any of the testing locations by the private labs hired to conduct the analyses. Testing is done for over 100 specific types of herbicides and pesticides.

Are heavy metals present in Okanagan Lake?

Heavy metals testing in Okanagan Lake has always met the drinking water guidelines. Dissolved and heavy metals are included on the annual Health Canada Potability scans and remain on a yearly analysis schedule. At one point in the program, samples were collected each month from all pumpstations for heavy and dissolved metals scans.

Are perfluorinated compounds present in our drinking water?

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have been identified as an emerging contaminant of concern in our watersheds. In 2021 the City did a full round of testing for these compounds and did not detect any signs of them at any of our drinking water intake locations. PFCs are manmade chemicals not naturally found in the environment, last a very long time without breaking down and can accumulate in humans and wildlife. They can come from a number of consumer products such as carpet, clothing treatments, and non-stick surfaces. For more information please see the fact sheet on PFCs, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

Turbidity

Turbidity, which is measured and reported in nephelometric turbidity units (NTU), is an optical measurement of water’s ability to scatter and absorb light rather than transmit it in straight lines. Turbidity levels can range from less than 1 NTU to more than 1,000 NTU. At 5 NTU water is visible cloudy; at 25 NTU it is murky.

In keeping with the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality and B.C.’s Drinking Water Protection Act, water suppliers will notify customers of turbidity levels that exceed 1 NTU.

Turbidity levels

Good (<1 NTU)

Water is safe to drink.

Fair (1-5 NTU)

It's recommended that children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and anyone seeking additional protection drink boiled water or an alternative source.

Poor (>5 NTU)

It's recommended that all users drink boiled water or an alternative source. Tap water intended for drinking should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute.

Why is turbidity an important water quality indicator?

Bacteria, viruses and parasites such as giardia and cryptosporidium can attach themselves to the suspended particles in turbid water. These particles then interfere with disinfection by shielding contaminants from the disinfectant (e.g. chlorine). Chlorine is not effective in deactivating cryptosporidium.

For more information regarding health issues related to turbidity, contact the Interior Health Authority at 250-862-4200 or visit their website.