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Can I drink BC water?

You can get natural freshwater access on a property through several different sources. You can get water from lakes, rivers, and creeks on your property.

It is strongly suggested that you disinfect water from BC's lakes, rivers, creek, and shallow wells.

Drinking water is disinfected to kill disease-causing micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses and parasites) which may be in it.

Many different diseases are spread by drinking water contaminated by micro-organisms, including Campylobacter, cholera, amoebic dysentery, beaver fever (Giardia) and Cryptosporidia. These organisms usually get into drinking water supplies when source waters (i.e.. lakes, streams) or community water supply pipes or storage reservoirs are contaminated by animal wastes or human sewage.

In general, surface waters such as streams and lakes are more likely to contain disease-causing organisms than groundwater. Deep wells are safer than shallow wells. In fact, shallow dug wells are often as contaminated as lakes or streams.

When should I disinfect my drinking water?

You should disinfect your drinking water if:

  • your community has been issued a boil water advisory;
  • you are using water directly from a stream, lake or shallow well;
  • lab tests of your water show that it contains "fecal coliforms";
  • an earthquake or other disaster has disrupted your community water supply;
  • you are traveling in an area where water is not well treated (third world countries); or
  • you have a weakened immune system (in which case you should disinfect all of your drinking water).

Disinfecting small quantities of water


Boiling is the best way to kill bacteria, viruses and parasites. A full boil for at least one minute is recommended. At elevations over 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) you should boil water for at least two minutes to disinfect it.

 NOTE: This is not appropriate for water that is obviously heavily polluted, or subject to chemical contamination.

To remove the flat taste of boiled water, leave the boiled water in a clean covered container for a few hours or pour the cooled boiled water back and forth from one clean container to another.

Disinfection using chemical methods:

Unscented household bleach (5% chlorine) can sometimes be a good disinfectant - e.g. when the water is not heavily polluted, or when beaver fever or cryptosporidiosis are not a concern.

Disinfection using bleach works best with warm water. Add 1 drop (0.05 mL) of bleach to 1 Litre of water, shake and allow to stand for at least 30 minutes before drinking.

Double the amount of bleach for cloudy water, or for cooler water.

A slight chlorine odour should still be noticeable at the end of the 30 minute waiting period if you have added enough bleach.

The disinfection action of bleach depends as much on the waiting time after mixing as to the amount used. The longer the water is left to stand after adding bleach, the more effective the disinfection process will be.

NOTE: Bleach does not work well in killing off beaver fever (Giardia) or Cryptosporidium parasites. The amount of bleach needed to kill these parasites makes the water almost impossible to drink. If beaver fever or Cryptosporidium are in your water, boiling is the best way to ensure safe drinking water.

Chlorine Tablets:

Follow the manufacturers' directions.



Whenever possible use warm water (20 ºC) and let stand a minimum of 20 minutes after mixing and before drinking.

For cold water (5 - 15ºC) increase the waiting time after mixing to 40 minutes.

If you are using 2% tincture of iodine, use 10 drops (0.5 mL) for every one litre of water.

With iodine tablets, follow the manufacturer's directions.

Pregnant women should not use iodine drops to purify water, as it may have an effect on the fetus. Also, iodine should not be used to disinfect water over long periods of time, as this can cause thyroid problems.

You cannot make ocean water drinkable without expensive equipment.