Cool, Clean, Clear and Canadian

Refresh yourself with water from local Canadian springs
Published August 8, 2016


It is always a good time for cleaning out the closets, the garage and your body. That’s right. The time is always right to give your system a good long liquid scrubbing.

Water accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the human body's weight. And we humans lose about 1.5 litres of it daily, which means we need to replenish it. Water not only tastes good, it is essential for survival, critical for many body functions, washes out toxins, eliminates waste, and if you’re trying to lose a few pounds, is a helpful alternative between meals, when the impulse to grab fatty, unhealthy snacks may feel overwhelming.

This season, we’re looking at a specific kind of water that Canada just happens to be rich in. Spring water, to be exact…

First, let’s explain the nitty-gritty details. Officially, spring water is water gathered from an underground source that arrives at the surface of the earth. According to the Canadian Food and Drug Act, there must be a natural force causing the water to flow to the surface, through a natural hole. Spring water must also contain less than 500 parts per million of total dissolved solids—distinguishing it from mineral water, which contains more than 500 parts per millions of solids (i.e. minerals).

“When you look at spring water versus tap or municipal water,” says Chris Garrick, a Manitoban bottler and aficionado. “You’re talking about two completely different things. Municipal water has chemicals added to it to clean it up. Spring water, on the other hand, by law, has to be drinkable from the start.”

According to the Canadian Food and Drug Act, bottled spring water cannot be altered with chemicals. That’s why drinkers claim it has such a clean, clear taste. The flavour of the water, in fact, can range from acidic to mildly sweet to alkaline, say water devotees. To observe the ratings of different bottled Canadian spring waters, visit

The real authority, however, is Berkeley Springs, a small historic spa town in West Virginia, which runs an international water-tasting competition each February. Waters enter from all over the world. Spring waters in this competition are officially called “Bottle Non-Carbonated Waters.” This year, of the 36 entries, 10 were Canadian, mostly from British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario. In previous years, though, Alberta and Quebec were also represented.

“The Canadians have always been strong contenders,” says Laura Smith, an organizer for Travel Berkeley Springs. “But for the past five years, the Canadians were winning everything. We had to have separate categories for the Americans, just to give them a chance.” According to their judging criteria, “what you’re looking for is no taste to the water at all. Plus it has to quench your thirst.”

Arnold Gumowitz, a Manhattan businessman who imports spring water from a tiny forest spring called Gold Mountain in Ontario, agrees. “Our bottling company went to Nepal to try purified water from Mount Everest. We went to Turkey to try water that was supposed to be from Noah’s Ark,” he says. “Nothing tasted anywhere near as good.”

Our advice? Check out the local bottlers in your area (every province has at least five or six, if not many, many more) and set up your own sampling. Consider it the healthy-eater’s wine tasting—a fun way to spend the evening without the hangover or extra calories.

“You wouldn’t believe how popular spring water is now,” adds Laura Smith. “Thirty years ago, when we started the Berkeley Springs competition, we had 30 entries. Now we have over 100 each year. And many springs don’t re-enter after they’ve won, for fear of losing.”

Another way to sample, of course, is to try the water directly at the source. Many famous sources, such as the hot springs at Banff National Park, don’t encourage drinking the water—preferring you to relax with a nice long soak. But there are exceptions. At Grail Springs lodge in Ottawa, two hours outside of Toronto, guests can shower in spring water, get packed in mud and spring water, and get wrapped in seaweed and spring water. Or they can just amble into the lobby and pour themselves a tall cool glass from the big silver canister. Madeline Marentette, the owner, is pretty clear about how her water tastes. “Like fresh, fallen rain.”