About the Aquifer

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Hamilton pumphouse

About our Drinking Water

In Whitehorse, most people use groundwater. For buildings connected to the municipal water system, the water comes from the Riverdale Aquifer. Some people pump their own water from wells on their own property. Others have water delivered into a holding tank.

There are currently six wells supplying water. In 2015, just under 4.5 million cubic metres of water was pumped from the source.

The Riverdale Aquifer

The Riverdale Aquifer was historically used to supplement Schwatka Lake water. It was added to warm up the lake water, and to make it clearer during spring melt. There are several drinking water wells that access the aquifer, as well as several testing and monitoring wells. The wells are located between 4 and 21 metres below ground surface level. The aquifer is overlain by sand and gravel and is called an unconfined aquifer because the rock cover can be permeated. The aquifer recharges mainly from the Yukon River.

For more information about Whitehorse's groundwater and other interesting geological facts, visit Geoscape Whitehorse.

Why did we switch to groundwater?

For many years, Schwatka Lake surface water was the primary drinking water source, which was mixed with groundwater from the Riverdale aquifer (also called the Selkirk aquifer). While the water quality was high, there were some risks to the water. They included wildlife feces, activities along Schwatka Lake, septics and development along Marsh Lake, and stormwater runoff.

The City began increasing its use of groundwater starting in 2005 for several reasons. The above risks were a factor, but also more rigorous treatment requirements for surface water would have driven up the capital and operational costs. Further, surface water has turbidity issues that groundwater doesn’t. Since 2010, the City has been using only groundwater.