Drinking Water

Man filling a glass with water from the tap


Page updated February 2022

Understanding your drinking water

Drinking water from lakes, rivers, shallow wells (dug wells) or drilled wells may contain unseen substances. While most of these substances are harmless, some may be a health risk. Compare your drinking water test results with the Guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality to see if they are within the limits set by Health Canada.

Water treatment

Drinking water should be treated if it is sourced from lakes, rivers, shallow wells (dug wells) or drilled wells with poor test results.

For information on drinking water treatment devices visit the Health Canada website.

For information on UV light treatment devices, visit our UV light information page.

Drilled well disinfection instruction

Well disinfection is one way homeowners may deal with an occasional bad water result. See the disinfection instruction sheet published by the Province of Ontario for a step-by-step guide on how to disinfect a drilled well.

Testing drinking water is an important part to having safe water. Visit the Public Health Ontario website for information on:

  • Drinking water safety
  • Testing drinking water for bacteria
  • Getting your drinking water test results
  • Understanding water test results
  • What to do if you have bad test results

For information on private water sample submission and the Health Unit water testing schedule, please see our Drinking water sample details / Collecte et envoi d’échantillons d’eau potable

Small Drinking Water Systems

If your business or premise makes drinking water available to the public and you do not get your drinking water from a municipal drinking water system, you may be an owner or operator of a small drinking water system (SDWS).

As of December 2008, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Long-Term Care (MOLTC) has oversight of small drinking water systems (SDWS) in Ontario under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Ontario Regulation 319/08 (Small Drinking Water Systems).

Some examples of small drinking water systems would be, but not limited to, trailer parks, campgrounds, sit down restaurants, hotels, motels, places of worship, gas stations, recreational facilities, clubs or fraternal organizations, or other facilities that provide the general public with access to a washroom, drinking water fountain or shower.

What is a small drinking water system directive?

A “Directive” is a document that outlines the operational requirements that must be carried out by the owner or operator of a SDWS. It is issued on completion of a site specific risk assessment conducted by a Public Health Inspector. Since there are many types of SDWS, the Public Health Inspector will conduct a site specific risk assessment of the SDWS to determine potential risks to users associated with the operation of the SDWS. This is done by using a risk categorization tool (RCat) to identify and assess potential risks to users and by applying a multi-barrier approach to determine any potential risk that may affect the safety of the drinking water if left uncorrected.

At the end of the risk assessment, the SDWS will be assigned one of the following risk categories for the system as a whole:

  • high=significant risk
  • moderate=medium level risk
  • low=negligible level of risk 

What can be included in a directive?

  • The need for primary, secondary treatment, other treatment equipment
  • Water sampling and testing frequency, location and method
  • The types of samples to be taken
  • Record maintenance
  • Posting warning signs
  • Operational checks
  • Appropriate training for owners/operators

What if I do not agree with the requirements issued in a directive?

If you do not agree with the requirements issued in your directive or an amendment to your directive, you have seven days to request a review by the local Medical Officer of Health (MOH). When requesting a review you must include the following:

  1. a.       The portions of the directive or amendment to the directive that you want to be reviewed
  2. b.      Any submission that you would like the MOH to consider in the review
  3. c.       A current mailing address so that the MOH can provide you with the decision in respect to the review.

What happens to the directive if there is a change in ownership?

If there ls a change in ownership of the SDWS, the directive is site specific and therefore it belongs to the site and remains in effect. It is best to contact the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit at 705-474-1400 ext. 5400 and advise that there is a change in ownership.

If you should have any questions do not hesitate to talk to a Public Health Inspector at 705-474-1400 ext. 5400.

You may also find additional information on the following websites:

Ontario Regulation 319/08: O. Reg. 319/08: Small Drinking Water Systems

Current list of licensed laboratories: www.ontario.ca/page/list-licensed-laboratories

Small Drinking Water System (Form)

Notice to Operate or Reopen a Small Drinking Water System  is required to be completed and submitted to the Health Unit to register a water system not previously registered with the Ontario government, in cases where a water system has been altered or newly constructed, or when the water system has been shut down for more than 7 days (Seasonal water systems) to fulfill your obligation under Section 5 of Ontario Regulation 319/08.  Complete sections 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 on this form if your drinking water system has been shut down for more than 60 days. 

If you operate multiple small drinking water systems, you are required to fill out a form for each system. If the water system had been shut down for more than 60 days, you are also required to sample your water for total coliforms and E. coli before supplying water to users, refer to your Directive for sampling requirements.  Send a copy of the water sample results to the Health Unit with the Notice to Operate or Reopen a Small Drinking Water System form(s) before the proposed date of supplying water. 

Please mail, fax 705-474-9481 or email environmental.health@healthunit.ca the completed form and water sample results to the Health Unit. Should you have additional questions, please call and speak to a public health inspector at 705-474-1400 ext. 5400.

Safe drinking water in child care centres and schools

In an effort to better protect children and youth, the Ontario Regulation 243/07, Schools, Private Schools and Child Care Centres made under the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 was improved in 2017. The changes include testing the water of all faucets in a school or child care centre (where water is drawn for drinking). Schools and child care centres are implementing this change gradually until 2020.

More information:

Fact sheet for parents / Fiche d’information à l’intention des parents

Flushing your plumbing / Vidanger votre installation de plomberie

Lead in drinking water

Drinking Water Advisories

If a problem with your drinking water is detected, you may have to operate under a drinking water advisory. To use water safely during an advisory, follow the advice in the guidelines and commonly asked questions:


Guidelines for food establishments during a boil water advisory

Guidelines for dental offices during a boil water advisory

Guidelines for child care centres during a boil water advisory

Commonly asked questions

Commonly asked questions about boil water advisories

Commonly asked questions about drinking water advisories

Drinking Water advisory signs

Boil water advisory sign /  Avis de faire bouillir l’eau

Do Not Drink this Water Sign

Sodium Exceedance Tap Posting





North Bay

345 Oak Street West

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)