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'Best bottled water in North America'

The water we drink is the very same water that runs in, around and under town. And according to all sources, it's the best water in North America. But on a recent day on the job, public works crews noticed something a little "off" with that water.

"We were working and smelled paint coming up," the District of Hope's utilities foreman Graham Hogg said. Upon investigating, they realized a homeowner who was painting his house was dumping paints and paint thinner down the drain.

It's mistakes like that which highlight the need to take care of the local water supply, something Hogg and his crew work on constantly. They can monitor the District's wells and reservoirs through their SCADA system, turning them on and off at the flip of a switch. And every Tuesday, they test up to 20 sites for water quality.

Last year's water monitoring report was just published online at the District's website (www.hope.ca), at the request of the health authority.

"It was finished a long time ago," he explained. "But Fraser Health wanted it up so people who couldn't get to the District office could access it."

What the report shows is a clean bill of health.

"We've got great water here," he said. Of the 10 wells and two reservoirs, only the reservoir at Lake of the Woods needs to be treated. There, they use ultra filtration and UV filtering. And the fact they don't have to chlorinate the local water system is a source of pride.

But it's also the work of Mother Nature, said Scott Misumi, director of community development in Hope.

"The water is good because we have a delta of the Coquihalla River," he said. "We have a lot of gravel deposits with very good soils, or gravels. Quite often the quality of water is relative to the minerals in the ground."

And while there are areas that may have more iron, for example, the District simply doesn't locate its wells there.

Misumi used to work as the director of development services, and has first hand knowledge of the quality of the local water. But as director of community development, he also is familiar with how certain industries have affected Hope's economy.

"Once the forestry and the mining shut the doors in the Hope area, we were relying on tourism," he said. Then, spring water hit a popularity streak among bottled water users. Since then, Nestle Waters (which bought out Aberfoyle Springs) has provided a boon to the local economy.

They currently employ 75 people, with a $6 million annual payroll in Hope.

"They're a good corporate company," Misumi said, and one that fits well with the environmentally friendly ideals of the District.

John Challinor, Nestle's director of corporate affairs, said it's Hope that's a good fit for the multi-national company.

"It's the unofficial view of a number of Nestle employees across North America ... that Hope produces the best bottled water across North America," he told The Observer.

"The water gets its characteristics from what it's filtered through, and where it's stored in the earth," he said. "This is spring water we're talking about, and because of the make up of the material around Hope, that translates into what is in the water. It's a very unique combination of minerals and other compounds, that make a very tasty, bottled water."

And while one might think a bottled water company was using up a local resource, Challinor said that's not the case.

Managing the resource is something they take "very seriously," because without a good water supply, they couldn't continue their work.

"We're here for the long term. We basically draw seven-tenths to one percent of what is available to draw from the Kawkawa Lake water shed," he said.

And when a tsunami struck in Japan this March, fresh potable water was in high demand. Nestle donates water to causes throughout the Fraser Valley and around Canada, so it was a natural step to help out those affected by the disaster.

Hope is also home to the closest bottling plant to the Pacific Rim nation.

"Hope provided a lot of the water that was sent to Japan," he said, which arrived in that country 10 days after being bottled.

For those who want to learn more about the bottling plant, there is an open house planned for the future, in September 2012.

 

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