Vancouver now boasts the purest tap water in the world—so why are you still drinking bottled?

With the completion of the Capilano-Seymour watersheds’ $600 million upgrades, officials in the region say they can now boast to having the highest quality tap water in the world.

“No doubt about it,” says Bill Morrell, media relations manager at Metro Vancouver, ”I would put our drinking water up against any other tap water source in the world.”

The $600 million price tag was spent on a state-of-the-art water filtration system that targets turbidity and reduces the risk of gastrointestinal diseases that can cause widespread illness and possible fatalities, especially for those with compromised immune systems.

Capilano Seymour Watershed upgrades

Upgrades to the Capilano-Seymour watersheds
include a state-of-the-art water filtration system
that reduces the risk of gastrointestinal diseases.
(Image: Flickr /
Thomas McIlwraith).

Several environmental technologies were incorporated into the upgrade: an Energy Recovery facility produces turbine-generated electricity, usually an untapped energy source; ground source heat extraction heats and cools the operation; and green roof technology stabilizes indoor seasonal temperatures.

Considering the quality and flavour of Metro Vancouver’s recently improved tap water, Morrell says, “I can think of no good reason for anyone to drink bottled water.”

In Canada, the per capita consumption of bottled water has skyrocketed. In 1999, we consumed an average of 19.4 litres per person, climbing to more than 60 litres per person by 2008. Considering the Metro Vancouver region now houses more than 2.1 million residents, at that rate the number of plastic bottles we go through could entirely fill Okanagen Lake every two years.

So why, when we have the purest water in the world, do we continue to reach for the bottled stuff? According to a four-year study, by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), water bottlers sell a market perception that their products are more “pure and good for you” than what comes out of the faucet. To drive these myths home, bottlers engage in expensive public relations campaigns that question the safety and quality of municipal tap water.

Listed below are the top five marketing myths and their realities:

Myth: Bottled water is safer.

Fact: Bottled water can be from any source and treated in any manner. The two largest brands of bottled water in Canada, Coca-Cola’s Dasani and Pepsi’s Aquafina brands use filtered municipal tap water from Brampton, Ontario, and Calgary, Alberta. The NRDC found plenty of bacteria and chemicals in bottled water, including arsenic and methylene chloride. The new water filtration system at the Capilano-Seymour reservoir uses UV light to disinfect potential pathogens and nasty parasites cryptosporidium and giardia.


Myth: Bottled water is strictly monitored and tested.

Fact: Metro Vancouver tests tap water everyday from hundreds of sources, up to 25,000 times per year. Bottled water plants are inspected only once every three years.


Myth: Plastic bottles do not waste water.

Fact: According to Metro Vancouver it takes 3 litres of water to produce 1 litre of bottled water, and the equivalent of ½ litre of oil in embedded energy cost, including the toxic manufacturing process to produce plastic. Bottled water consumes significant amounts of non-renewable fossil fuels to extract, package and transport products to market, creating pollution, including CO2, decreasing overall air quality.


Myth: Plastic bottles are recycled.

Fact: Although plastic water bottles can be recycled, between 40 and 80 percent of empty bottles end up as litter and/or are placed directly into the garbage. Metro Vancouver estimates 3 million plastic bottles ended up in BC landfills last year alone.


Myth: Bottled water is inexpensive.

Fact: Tap water costs $.0008 cents per litre or $0.80 per 1,000 litres. Bottled water is $2-4 per litre depending on the point of purchase. In fact, bottled water is more expensive per volume than gasoline.

We agree Bill Morrell: We can't think of any good reasons to drink bottled water either!