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Exterior of the water treatment plant Water treatment program

Treatment plant

The crown jewel of our water treatment program, our new water treatment plant is a state-of-the-art, modern facility designed for performance, safety, and environmental sustainability. We started building the water treatment plant in early 2005 and finished in late 2009. The cost to build was about $300 million.

About the plant

Located at Deacon Reservoir, the plant:

  • began sending treated water to the city on the evening of December 9, 2009,
  • is about the footprint of the MTS Centre,
  • has a highly automated system that monitors and controls a wide variety of instruments, mechanical equipment and electrical equipment, including 40 processors, 140 pumps, 2300 valves, and 1400 instruments,
  • has additional staff to handle chemical deliveries, monitor water quality, and perform regular maintenance,
  • is expected to last about 75 years with normal upkeep and maintenance,
  • can treat 400 million litres of water per day,
  • will be able to treat the water during a prolonged power outage.
  • Additional background info

Treatment processes

The water passes through the following treatment steps:

Coagulation / Flocculation

  • Treatment process pathThis step increases the size of the organic matter particles, so they can be removed more easily in the next step.
  • Two chemicals are added as the water flows into the plant through two large pipes:
    • Coagulation/flocculation thumbnail imagesulphuric acid to reduce the pH of the water and make this stage more efficient, and
    • a coagulant, ferric chloride, so that particles in the water (e.g., natural organic matter, including algae and dissolved organics) will be attracted to each other.
  • The water enters the flocculation basins where large mixing devices stir the water, causing the particles to collide and stick together, creating clumps of particles.

Dissolved air flotation

  • This step removes the clumps of organic matter from the water.
  • The water flows from the flocculation basins into dissolved air flotation tanks.
  • Dissolved air flotation thumbnail imageAn air saturator takes water and supersaturates it with compressed air, making it look frothy.
  • A stream of supersaturated water is injected into the tanks.
  • Tiny air bubbles float the clumps of organic matter to the top of the tank.
  • A series of skimmers remove the floating clumps from the surface of the water.
  • The clumps are pumped to an onsite processing area.


  • Ozonation thumbnail imageOzonation helps disinfect the water.
  • The water flows from the dissolved air flotation tanks to the ozone chambers.
  • Liquid oxygen is pumped into an ozone generator to make ozone.
  • The ozone is added to the water to:
    • improve the filter performance in the next treatment stage,
    • destroy most of the harmful bacteria and
    • improve the taste and odour of the water.
  • At the end of the process, sodium bisulphite is added to the water to remove any leftover ozone.


  • Filtration thumbnail imageThe water flows from the ozone chambers to the filtration gallery where it passes through biologically activated carbon filters.
  • A small amount of a chemical filter aid is added to improve filter performance.
  • The filters remove remaining particles from the water, including parasites.
  • Good "bugs" growing on the filters also remove natural dissolved organic matter. This reduces disinfection by-products when chlorine is added.
  • The filters are cleaned by pumping air and water backwards through the filters. The backwashed water is pumped to the onsite processing area.

Chlorine disinfection

  • Water flows from the filtration gallery through to the chlorine chamber.
  • Chlorine is added to meet regulations and to kill bacteria and viruses. It is one of the most efficient disinfectants of water known to science.
  • Sodium hydroxide is added to raise the pH back to about the original level so that the water is suitable for drinking.
  • Water flows from the chlorine chamber into an underground reservoir (clearwell).

Ultraviolet light disinfection

  • After the treatment plant processes, the water is pumped from the treatment plant's clearwell through stainless steel chambers that contain ultraviolet (UV) lamps, similar to fluorescent bulbs.
  • With only seconds of exposure, the UV light rays penetrate any remaining waterborne micro-organisms such as Crytosporidium and Giardia, destroying their ability to reproduce. They can no longer cause infection and illness and are now harmless.

Final steps

Our water then goes through final treatment.

Processing the material removed during treatment

Two types of materials remain from the treatment stages – solids from the dissolved air flotation system and backwash water from the filters when they are cleaned. These materials are directed to a processing area on site where:

  • Backwash water from the filters settles.
  • The clean water is returned to the beginning of the plant for use.
  • Final material process thumbnail imageThe settled-out solids and the clumps of particles from the dissolved air flotation process are pumped to open outdoor settling ponds at the Deacon site.
  • The pond contents go through natural freeze-thaw cycles, which separate the liquid and solids.
  • The liquid is pumped to the sewer system for treatment.
  • The solids are taken to the landfill for disposal.

Changes in Winnipeg's drinking water quality

Now that our treatment plant is operating, Winnipeg’s drinking water:

  • is of a higher quality than the drinking water guidelines set out by Health Canada,
  • is clearer and smells and tastes better all year.

The chart below outlines the changes in water quality as a result of water treatment.

Water quality parameter Before water treatment
Based on 2008 testing data
With water treatment
Based on 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 testing data
Turbidity (clearness) 0.24 to 4.11 nephelometric turbidity units
Average: 0.58 nephelometric turbidity units
0.06 to 164 nephelometric turbidity units
Average: 0.28 nephelometric turbidity units
Water treatment improved the turbidity level of the water coming from the water treatment plant to below 0.3 nephelometric turbidity units.  There were occasional disturbances in the distribution system that resulted in higher localized levels (e.g. firefighting, valve operation). 0.03% of the results were >5 (the federal guideline for aesthetics).
Total dissolved solids 86 to 123 parts per million 146 to 248 parts per million There was an increase due to chemical addition.
pH 7.13 to 7.81 units 6.42 to 8.04 units There was a slight increase in pH.
Alkalinity (measured as calcium carbonate) 55 to 94 parts per million 57 to 86 parts per million There was no noticeable change.
Iron 0.02 to 0.09 parts per million <0.008 to 0.24 parts per million There was no noticeable change.
Chlorine (free residual) 0.10 to 1.41 parts per million <0.02 to 1.79 parts per million There was no noticeable change.
Sulphate 2.7 to 3.6 parts per million 29 to 69 parts per million There was an increase due to chemical addition.
Sodium 1.9 to 2.5 parts per million 23.2 to 47.2 parts per million There was an increase due to chemical addition.
Chloride 6.3 to 9.7 parts per million 13 to 30 parts per million There was an increase due to chemical addition.
Fluoride 0.72 to 0.95 parts per million 0.12 to 0.90 parts per million There was no change to the fluoridation program from 2008 to 2010.  Effective March 2011, the target was changed from 0.85 parts per million to 0.70 parts per million. Lower than usual results are observed during maintenance.
Orthophosphate (measured as PO4) 1.61 to 2.13 parts per million
0.35* to 2.28 parts per million There was no change to the lead control program (target of 2.0 parts per million).
Odour 35 to 150 threshold odour number units 8 to 100 threshold odour number units There was no noticeable change.
Colour <5 to 6 true colour units <5 to 10 true colour units There was no noticeable change.

Data reported was collected from various locations.

* From September 19th to 29th, 2014, the Phosphoric Acid system was shutdown for maintenance which led to low results for the orthophosphate.

If you have any questions about water quality, contact us for more information.

Due to security and safety concerns, tours of this facility are not available.

A virtual tour of our drinking water treatment plant is available.

Last updated: April 21, 2015