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Water FAQs

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FAQs Specific to Water and Water Treatment

What is the average water consumption for a house in Medicine Hat?

Water consumption is dependent on the number of people in a house and how much water is used by each person; also whether there is a yard to water in the summer. A house with one person in it may only use 5-20+ cubic metres of water per month depending on the season. Water conservation both inside and outside the house is the best way to minimize the water consumption in your home.

What is the hardness of the water in Medicine Hat?

Water hardness is determined by the level of naturally occurring calcium and magnesium compounds in the water. Water is considered as hard when the calcium and magnesium levels are high; the lower the levels the softer the water. Hard water is most often noticed when a build up of scale begins to form near faucets. You may also notice increased soap consumption and reduced detergent efficiency.

Water hardness levels will vary, however 150-240 mg/L or 8.7-14 grains is the average in Medicine Hat. The water in Medicine Hat is classified as “moderate” for hardness.

Can the water valve on my property be lowered?

Yes. Environmental Utilities field operators routinely lower service boxes that have risen up out of the ground during the Spring thaw. Call 403.529.8176 to submit your request.

Should a homeowner install a water softener?

Softened water allows soap to form suds easily, does not build up scale in boilers or hot water heaters and does not leave large mineral deposits on plumbing fixtures, glass shower/tub doors and cooking utensils.

Water softeners require maintenance to ensure they are performing properly. A water softener in poor working condition can be the cause of:

  • Lower pressure in the house (most units can be temporarily bypassed which should restore the pressure to normal until the unit can be serviced)
  • Water quality – if the unit is not in use, it should be taken out of service by unplugging and bypassing to prevent taste and odour problems in the water.

Other important items to remember:

Salt used during the softening exchange can be corrosive to the home plumbing system; this includes water heater anodes.

Due to the increase of sodium in softened water, individuals with sodium-restricted diets should check with their physician to determine what levels of sodium are acceptable in softened drinking/cooking water.

What is the water pressure in Medicine Hat?

Water pressure will always fluctuate, however the average water pressure ranges between 50-60psi. Note that there may be areas in the city where the water pressure is lower or higher than this average and that the pressure in your home or business is also dependent on the size of the water service going into property from the water main.

What is the temperature of the water in Medicine Hat?

The temperature of the water is dependent of the temperature that the South Saskatchewan River is at when taken in at the Treatment Plant. The water temperature coming into your home or business is also dependent on the time of year and the depth of the water service.

The temperature of the water in the distribution system in Medicine Hat will generally vary from 1-24 degrees Celsius. In 2011 the average temperature was around 17 degrees Celsius.

Is there Fluoride in the water in Medicine Hat?

No. The Water Treatment Plant does not fluoridate the water during the treatment process in Medicine Hat. Research has shown that adequate fluoride is contained within most major brand-name personal care products on the market today. The addition of fluoride is not necessary in potable water.

How much chlorine is in the drinking water?

The average amount of residual chlorine in the distribution system is between 0.5 – 0.8 mg/L. Residual chlorine levels will vary depending on the time of year and level of chlorination required at the Treatment Plant due to the quality of the raw water coming into the Plant from the South Saskatchewan River.

Is there lead in my drinking water?

Lead levels are undetectable in water samples collected from various sample sites around the city. However, it may be present in your home tap water as a result of dissolution form household plumbing systems containing lead; including solder, brass fittings or the service connections to your home. To be on the safe side, if you own a house you know contains lead piping or fixtures containing lead (usually older homes), you may wish to rid your plumbing system of standing water by running the cold water tap for a few minutes before the water is used for drinking or cooking.

Lead is the most common of the heavy elements and is widely distributed throughout the environment. It has traditionally been used in plumbing fittings, lead acid batteries, chemicals, paints and solder; although these uses are decreasing due to the Canadian and US governments introducing policies and regulations to reduce lead content in these products.

Why does the water sometimes appear cloudy and then clear from the bottom up when I pour a glass of water?

This is due to dissolved air (oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide) in the water. As the water temperature decreases, more air is held in solution. The pressure in the water lines keeps it in solution as it travels and warms in the distribution system or in your home’s water lines. When the pressure is released it forms fine, microscopic bubbles that give the water a cloudy appearance for a few seconds. This is not an indication of a problem nor is it a quality concern. The water should clear from the bottom up in a few minutes if left to sit.

Do I need to de-chlorinate the water for my new fish tank?

City of Medicine Hat water contains chlorine. If water is allowed to sit in an open container for an extended period of time the chlorine will naturally dissipate. De-chlorination chemicals are also available through pet stores. The best practice is to ask an expert at the pet store for details on what is the best approach to follow.

What is the pink buildup around the bowl of my toilet?

The pink residue is actually produced by a strain of airborne bacteria that are present in many households. It does not originate from the water itself. The bacteria, since airborne, tend to multiply around the outside of the toilet bowl at the resting water level. The bacteria thrive on this “water to air interface” and hence the appearance of a “pink ring’. This strain of bacteria is very common and does not pose a health concern. The only way to prevent their growth is through the use of bleach or regular cleaning.

What exactly is “Beaver Fever”?

Beaver Fever is the common name for a flu-like illness caused by a common intestinal parasite known as Giardia (pronounced gee-are-dee-ah). The symptoms usually appear one to four weeks after you have ingested a large amount of Giardia cysts (30-50 cysts per 1000 litres of water). Giardia is found in human and animal wastes which sometimes wash into rivers and lakes. The City of Medicine Hat Water Treatment process is regulated by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) to remove a minimum of 99.99% of cysts. Background levels of the organism are quite low in our section of the South Saskatchewan River and have never posed any significant threat to human health in Medicine Hat.

FAQs Specific to Water Flushing Programs

Why does the system need to be flushed?

Over time, cast iron water lines will naturally corrode which results in corrosion build up on the walls of the pipe as well as particles settling in the water distribution system. These particles need to be flushed from the pipes to improve your neighborhood’s water quality.

Are these particles / sediment unhealthy?

These particles are typically made up of rust and metals and will not affect your health. They are more of an aesthetic concern (i.e. color, taste and odor) which can stain fixtures and laundry.

How is the system flushed?

Environmental Utilities has incorporated two types of flushing into routine maintenance programs.

Unidirectional Flushing requires certain valves to be opened and closed prior to flushing water from a hydrant. This directs the water in a specific direction thus forcing water through the main to clear it of particles and sediment. Water quality and turbidity is measured. During this process, water main valves are checked to ensure they are in proper working order.

During Hydrant inspections, water is flushed from the hydrants and each hydrant is inspected for any repairs or routine maintenance that may be required.

Will I be told when there is water flushing in my area?

It is not possible to notify everyone of exactly when the flushing will occur on a particular day and street. A map posted on the City’s website shows the different zones that require sequential flushing. Every hydrant and area is different, so there is no way to know how much progress will be made each working day. Depending on the zone, neighboring streets may also be affected by the flushing and valve closures. There is no way to be certain who will be affected. We appreciate everyone’s patience during flushing season.

What will customers experience?

During flushing, customers may experience fluctuations in water pressure and/or dirty water. This is due to the valves being closed and the large flow of water from the hydrants. If you open a tap at the same time that the hydrant is being flushed, the sediments or particles may be pulled into your internal water lines. Neighboring streets may also be affected with low pressure or dirty water for the duration that we are working in a specific zone.

What should customers do?

If at all possible, avoid using water when a hydrant is being flushed. This will minimize the dirty water from being drawn into the home or business. Once flushing is completed, clean any strainers or filters on your internal plumbing, run your cold water taps or turn on an outside hose to clear the internal lines; run the cold water for about 15 minutes or until the water runs clear. Verify that the water is clear before using it; do not do laundry until the water is clear. If dirty water or low pressure continues for over 3 hours, please call Environmental Utilities at 403.529.8176.

Why does flushing take so long?

The City of Medicine Hat water distribution system is comprised of approximately 430 km of pipes, thousands of valves and hydrants. Environmental Utilities systematically flushes, works and tests these lines, valves and hydrants according to a priority based work zone map. The hydrant needs to be flushed until the water runs clear and passes a water quality field test. This can take over an hour depending on the state and length of the pipe being flushed.

It takes a significant amount of effort to open and close water valves and they may not always operate as expected. If a valve does not operate properly, other valves will need to be worked in order to flush the main in the appropriate direction.

Only one hydrant can be opened at a time and provisions must be taken to ensure the water flow does not disrupt traffic or cause other problems.

How often does flushing need to occur?

Ideally, the water system is flushed once per year however based on the size of the city and work zones, certain zones may not get flushed each year. There are also certain areas of the city that require additional or more frequent flushing.

FAQs Specific to Cross Connection Control and Backflow Prevention

What is a cross-connection?

A cross-connection is a connection or potential connection between any part of a potable (drinking) water system and any other environment containing other substances in a manner that, under any circumstance, would allow such substances to enter the potable water system.

What is a CCC Program?

An approved CCC program is an organized, legally implemented and structured program to eliminate and control all actual or potential cross connections to the municipal potable (drinking) water supply. This includes selection, installation, testing and maintenance of backflow prevention device.

What is a backflow condition?

The undesirable reversal of flow in to a potable water distribution system as a result of a cross-connection. There are two types of backflow: backpressure and backsiphonage.

What is backpressure backflow?

Backpressure backflow is backflow caused by a downstream pressure that is greater than the upstream (supply) pressure. Pumps can create increases in downstream pressure; temperature increases in boilers, etc.

What is backsiphonage backflow?

Backsiphonage is backflow caused by a negative pressure (a vacuum) in a potable water system.

What is a backflow preventer?

Commonly referred to as a Backflow Prevention Assembly, a backflow preventer is a means or mechanism to prevent backflow or reverse flow of water back into the potable water system.

What is Premise Isolation

Premise Isolation is Backflow Protection provided at the water service entrance into a building or facility.

National Plumbing Code of Canada - Section 6.2.6

1) In addition to a backflow preventer required by this subsection for buildings or facilities where potentially a severe health hazard may be caused by backflow, a potable water system shall be provided with premise or zone installation by a reduced pressure principal backflow preventer.

CSA B64.10-01 - Manual for the Selection and Installation of Backflow Prevention Devices - Section 4.3.4 - Premises Isolation When required by Clause or, premises isolation for a building shall be required even if the water distribution system in the building conforms to the current plumbing or building code requirements, because backflow into the public water supply can still occur if the individual protection fails.

What if I do not comply?

If a business or facility refuses to comply with the City of Medicine Hat's Cross Connection Control Program, their water may be shut-off.

All businesses, commercial, industrial and institutional facilities within the City of Medicine Hat are required to have appropriate premise backflow protection. All testable backflow preventers within a facility must be tested when installed and annually by a Registered Cross Connection Control Tester. The installation of the appropriate device at its location will be verified when your facility is inspected by the Safety Codes or Cross Connection Control Officer to assist in identifying with the requirements for backflow protection in your facility.

Do I have to use a Registered Tester to test my Backflow Prevention device?

Yes. The CCC program administration will provide a current list of Registered Testers when mailing any correspondence to a business regarding backflow device installation or testing. Only tests submitted by testers registered with the City of Medicine Hat CCC Program are accepted.

Does a Registered Tester have to install a Backflow Prevention device?

No. Any journeyman plumber can install a Backflow Prevention assembly. Testing of the device must be completed by a Registered Tester.

Where does a Backflow Prevention device get installed?

This depends on the scenario and hazards found in a building. A premise isolation assembly is installed immediately after the water meter on the water service line.

Otherwise, a device should be installed before the particular hazard. For example, a BFP assembly installed to protect against the hazards of a boiler system will be installed on the inlet side of the boiler.BFP placement diagram