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Drinking Water - Filtration Systems

Navigation: Minimum Sustainable Recommendations | What are the Issues? | What are the Options? 

Did you know... Bottled water in landfills takes 1000 years to biodegrade (Earth, 2009). 

Minimum Sustainable Recommendations

The most environmentally friendly option is to hard plumb in drinking water stations using the bottle-less cooler system.  However, this can only be done where there is access to a water line.    The second option is, of course, to choose a water cooler. 

If there is no concern of pathogens, the filter system chosen regardless of cooler system should be a replaceable carbon filter that can remove chlorine, lead and odour to enhance taste.  Carbon filters leave natural trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium that are needed by the body.  In addition, the water coolers should be energy efficient (Energy Star rated).

Bottled coolers:

  • Equipment should be ENERGY STAR certified.
  • Vendor should provide carbon filtered drinking water, removing chlorine, lead and other compounds but retain natural trace minerals. 
  • Water is to be delivered in reusable, sanitized carboys with no-spill caps and integral handles. Carboys must be composed of materials deemed safe by Health Canada.
  • Vendor must provide cooler cleaning services in compliance with Health Canada's standards.

Bottle-less coolers:

  • Vendor should supply and install plumbed, freestanding, point of use carbon filtered coolers (bottle-less coolers) in designated locations. 
  • Preference should be given to equipment bearing Energy Star accreditation.
  • Bottle-less coolers shall produce water that is carbon filtered to remove chlorine, lead but retaining natural trace minerals.
  • If applicable, vendor must provide cooler cleaning services in compliance with Health Canada's standards.             

Other Things to Consider

In 2011 the Province of Manitoba announced that government offices will no longer purchase small bottles of drinking water, following a change in policy to encourage Manitoba government departments, special operating agencies, and boards and commissions to drink tap water.  The new policy bans the use of provincial funds to buy single-use bottled water in plastic containers with less than one litre of water when tap water that is safe for drinking is reasonably accessible.  The policy includes an exception when safe drinking water is not available.

Cups supplied should be compatible with the equipment supplied.  Preference will be given to cups bearing Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) compostable accreditation.

Finally, in keeping with provincial commitments to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste production, the vendor should be encouraged to develop sustainable delivery strategies;

  1. Product delivery consolidations
  2. Efficient transportation logistics
  3. Proper route planning
  4. No idling of vehicles during  product delivery
  5. Use of fuel efficient delivery vehicles


What are the issues?

Drinking water in most areas of Manitoba is excellent in quality right from the tap. That is why the Provincial Government has banned the purchase of bottle water (1 litre or less in size) for government offices. 

Some municipalities that use surface water as their drinking water source may experience higher amounts of algal blooms during certain times of the year such as in the late summer and early fall.  While the water is safe to drink, some people may reduce their water intake because of the algal blooms.  Because of this issue many organizations install drinking water stations.  A number of environmental issues should be considered when selecting drinking water stations.

A significant amount of energy and resources go into the bottling, storage, distribution and delivery of the 5 gallon plastic water bottles needed for the water coolers.   From a workplace safety and health perspective, lifting and replacing the five gallon bottles is a workplace hazard and careless bottle storage can injure workers/staff.  In addition, Health Canada recently declared Bisphenol A, a chemical component of plastic No. 7, a dangerous substance. This type of plastic is often used to make water cooler bottles.  As well, a number of the water filtration/purification processes used by various companies to enhance the quality of drinking water are very inefficient and the process does not support water conservation.  Water distillation or reverse osmosis purification processes can require up to two litres of public water to create one litre of bottled water. 


What are the options?

Purchasing water coolers with replaceable water bottles and/or filtering tap water and installing bottle-less coolers are some of the options to ensure plentiful supply of drinking water.  As a purchaser there are two factors that must be considered when selecting drinking water stations:

  1. The type of cooler and
  2. The type of filtration system.


Earth 911 (2009). Plastic Recycling Facts. Accessed from the World Wide Web June 9, 2009. URL


Last Updated: January 2019


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