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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Updated 2017/5/18
Holiday Water Report 2017


This story is brought to you in part by
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By Ronan O'Doherty

A lot of Ontarians, who are getting a taste of warm weather for the first time in what feels like ages, are starting to think about shedding their suits and work clothes and making a pilgrimage into the backcountry to one of the well renowned provincial parks in their province.

Once the vacation has been booked off from work and a campsite or two is signed up for, it's normally time to put together a list of all the things a proper camping experience needs.
  • Binoculars to get a good look at a moose across the river
  • Marshmallows to roast over an open fire
  • A bug mask if the trip is booked for spring (or even early summer)
  • Sun tanning cream (or a wide brimmed hat)
  • GPS (even though it's great to get away from technology….)
  • And of course, WATER
Even novice campers should know enough to ensure they have plenty of clean drinking water handy or the tools necessary to disinfect the water available in one of the parks' countless streams, lakes and rivers.

For those looking to take a long hike or a simple overnight trip, it might make sense to fill up some water bottles before embarking. Charlene Coulter, a spokesperson for Ontario Parks, told us via email that, "Drinking water can be accessed at designated drinking water taps in provincial park campgrounds and day use areas, trailer fill stations, comfort stations and publically accessible buildings such as visitor centres; unless otherwise posted not to use."

Sources for the drinking water available to visitors at the parks vary. Typically it is one of three options:
    1. Surface water (i.e. lake, stream, river etc.);
    2. Groundwater (i.e. well) or;
    3. The park is connected to a local municipal drinking water supply.
When asking about some of the more popular parks, Coulter was able to inform us that Algonquin Provincial Park and Bon Echo have several systems within their borders that use either surface water or ground water, while Killarney is just on a surface water system.

To ensure the drinking water provided by these systems is safe for visitors, it is tested for contaminants on a weekly basis. If a test shows results of some concern, a drinking water advisory (DWA) is issued. In which case, provincial parks are required to make signage present at all taps.

Often times, a park may also post signage at the entrance of the park and DWAs are posted on the Alerts page at OntarioParks.com.

It's a prudent idea for anyone planning on spending any time within the parks to check WaterToday's Ontario Advisory Map - which is updated daily - at least a day or two before the trip is scheduled.

Coulter advises that, "Park staff are also an excellent resource and encourage visitors to consult with them before heading out on day or overnight trips to ensure they have adequate provisions. Local public health units are also another source of information by contacting their office or on their website." For those who are intent on really reconnecting with the wilderness, and are going to be overnighting for multiple nights, it might make sense to purify water from the many sources available. The options are quite plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A few follow:
  • Boil - all it takes is a simple pot, a fire and some patience. It's recommended that the water is boiled for at least five minutes. This will rid water of all bacteria and nasty parasites like giardia.
  • Water Purification Tablets - good enough for the soldiers in WWII (they used iodine).Typical drawbacks are the long time to process (30 minutes+) and for the picky of palette, they can sometimes make the water taste funny.
  • Portable Water Filters - quick and easy to use. Great for on-the-go campers. These filters come in many forms like straws, water bottles, pumps and ones that use gravity to filter the water.
  • UV treatment - just like portable water filters, these are also quick and easy to use. With the wand variety, users simply stir water with the device and within a minute it'll be purified.
Some campers may even decide to combine a couple of the methods to ensure a safe trip.

Another concern that we asked Ontario Parks to comment on was the risk of contact with blue-green algae, microscopic organisms that when consumed can be harmful to humans and animals.

Coulter said, "At this point we have not had reports of blue-green algae in any provincial park. Historically blue-green algae has not been a concern for provincial park drinking water systems and staff are trained in the identification of algae. However, if present, certain types of algae would be of concern for visitors using backcountry bodies of water. "

Although in recent year, blue-green algae have bloomed as early as June, typically they will bloom in late summer early fall and will be a result of agricultural or storm run-off. As with DWAs, it's wise for campers to do some research while preparing for the trip to ensure they too can spot the algae and avoid it.

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