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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Updated 2017/4/27
Holiday Water Report 2017


By Ronan O'Doherty

Ontario's National Parks span the province, offering windows on the many ecosystems within its borders.

In honour of Canada's 150th celebrations, National Parks from coast to coast will be offering free admission to citizens and visitors alike.

We decided to contact a few of them to inform our readers what to expect water-wise when planning a trip. Located on the North-East shores of Lake Superior, Pukaskwa National Park is a popular destination for nature lovers looking to get away from it all.

It comprises 14 primary watersheds with abundant rivers and streams, 951 lakes, and numerous wetlands. ’ The park's coastal region also contributes to the largest stretch of undeveloped, contiguously forested shoreline on the Great Lakes.

Inland from Lake Superior, hundreds of small-to medium-sized lakes provide habitat for Brook Trout, Walleye and Northern Pike.

Coaster Brook Trout and Lake Sturgeon inhabit the swift-flowing rivers and streams, which find their way through 22 watersheds within the park to the sheltered coves and granite headlands of Lake Superior.

Hattie Cove contains one of only a few coastal wetlands in the park, and it is a valuable spawning habitat for northern pike. As such, Hattie Cove presents an excellent opportunity for hands-on monitoring of water quality, wetland species and marsh birds.

8700 people visited the park last year and that number will probably rise due to the free admission on offer.

According to Nancy Saunders, Public Relations and Communications Officer for Northern Ontario Parks Canada, Pukaskwa National Park has two water systems. The Park's administration building draws from a local well, while the Hattie Cove campground uses lake water as its source.

"The potable drinking water available at Pukaskwa National Park is tested regularly to ensure that drinking water is safe," Saunders informed us via email. "Samples to test water potability are taken from drinking water stations and taps located in the park's front country facilities and day use areas."

She explained that chlorine levels and turbidity are tested twice per week; and microbiological testing is done on a monthly basis. Furthermore, Nitrates and Trihalomethanes (THM) are tested every 90 days, and lead is tested every five years.

Saunders noted that like other Parks Canada sites, their potable water guidelines and standards are built on the principles outlined in Health Canada's Guidance for providing safe drinking water in areas of federal jurisdiction.

"For those exploring the front country—day hikes, walking on Horseshoe Beach, taking part in interpretive programming, cooking at their campsite in Hattie Cove Campground—we recommend that people bring reusable water bottles to fill with potable drinking water," Saunders explained, "For campers going into the backcountry, we recommend they have a reliable water filter/purification system and that they fine-filter, treat or boil their drinking water," adding, "We advise backcountry hikers to be sure to stock up on water from Lake Superior prior to starting their daily hike."

In the event of a boil water advisory, notification signs are posted at all locations where water can be accessed within Pukaskwa National Park.

Signs would also be posted at the entry to the park, at the kiosk, administration building, visitor centre, and other key locations.

David Wells, owner of Naturally Superior Adventures, has been running tours through his company on Lake Superior and park lands since 1994.

"For us, we have a water filtration system and a chemical back-up," Wells said in reference to Naturally Superior Adventures' home base," but for me personally, I drink from the lake."

For people on trips with his company, he recommends bringing along a simple filtration device, saying that toting water isn't really very necessary.

"As long as you're not near the mouth of any rivers, (the water on Lake Superior is) crystal clear and fresh and delicious."

For those planning a trip closer to Southern Ontario's major population centres, there are many options to choose from. We reached out to Lisa MacPherson, Communications Officer for the Ontario East Field Unit, which encompasses Thousand Islands National Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Conservation Area.

She advised us that at the sites listed above, potable water often comes from wells.

We were told that potable water is only available at certain locations within the national parks and is not available in any back country camping areas.

When visiting those areas, whether it is for an overnight camp or a day hike, it is a smart idea to carry water bottles or adequate equipment to treat water.

MacPherson told us that to be on the safe side and to aid in preparation, visitors are informed of any limitation in access to potable water when completing their reservation for activities requiring reservation.

The separate parks' drinking water availability is as follows:
  • Thousand Islands National Park potable water is available at Mallorytown Landing and at Central Grenadier Island.
  • Georgian Bay Islands National Park potable water is available at Cedar Spring.
  • Bruce Peninsula National Park potable water is available at the Visitor Centre and at front-country camping facilities.

We inquired about testing standards for the parks under her jurisdiction, and received the following in an email from MacPherson,

"The water testing and sampling frequency depends on each potable water system size, treatment process, water source and other criteria. The water testing and sampling varies from one parameter to the other as well. Parks Canada's potable water is tested regularly according to Parks Canada Potable Water Guidelines and Standards, which dictates the minimum testing and sampling frequencies."

Should a boil or non-consumption advisory be issued, MacPherson told us that they are displayed at the water source when required.

Ontario is also home to Canada's first National Park within a city, the Rouge National Urban Park. Made official by the Rouge National Urban Park act in 2015, the park is still acquiring land, so is not quite at its full potential. When completed it will encompass just under 80 square kilometres and overlap the cities of Toronto, Markham, Pickering as well as the Township of Uxbridge.

According to its website, it will be 22 times larger than New York's Central Park.

Jeffrey Sinibaldi, Public Relations and Communications Officer for the park informed us that Parks Canada does not yet fully manage or operate all lands committed for the park.

As they move forward with the land assembly for Rouge National Urban Park, the current smaller regional Rouge Park remains open and is being managed on an interim basis by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Drinking Water Standards will be similar to the parks managed above and adhere to Park Canada guidelines outlined by Health Canada.

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