The Water Services utility provides clean, high-quality drinking water to 2.5 million Metro Vancouver residents in the Lower Mainland. Over one billion litres of water flows through our taps every day.
Where does it come from?
Our water comes from rainfall and snowmelt in the mountainous areas called watersheds, north of the cities. There are three watersheds, Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam. The mountains receive about 3.5 meters of rain (more than the city), mostly from October through April. In addition to the rainfall there is, on average, a 4.5 metre snowpack in the higher elevations each year.
The rain and melting snow flows downhill through small lakes and streams into large collection lakes called reservoirs, where it is stored year round.
Metro Vancouver captures, stores and treats your drinking water, then distributes it wholesale to our local government members using a network of dams, treatment facilities, water mains, pump stations, and storage reservoirs. The drinking water flows seamlessly into local governments' distribution systems which deliver it to properties for businesses and residents.
Future water supply
These sources have provided water for a growing region for many decades. Likely sources for additional water supply include increasing the volume of water allocated to drinking water from the Coquitlam Reservoir (where historically the majority is allocated to hydroelectricity generated by BC Hydro), and, in the longer term, potentially increasing the storage volume of the Seymour Reservoir.
Metro Vancouver also evaluates additional options to access, store, treat and distribute water from fresh water sources such as Pitt or Harrison Lakes or the Fraser River, although these sources do not provide access to gravity-fed water distribution and would require additional treatment systems.
Expanding our water supply comes with both financial and environmental considerations. Some examples are dam safety, impacts to fish and wildlife, infrastructure costs, alignment with the existing distribution system and consideration of future effects of climate change.
Like all natural resources, fresh drinking water is valuable. Thoughtful debate and discussion are an important part of understanding the costs and benefits of expanding our water supply.