Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Drinking Water

Natural Springs


Roadside springs are a source of pure, clean drinking water.


Roadside springs are not considered a reliable, safe drinking water supply.

Many people use natural springs as a source of drinking water. There is a mystique associated with springs, and a general public perception that clear, flowing, spring water is pure and natural, better tasting and free of contaminants compared to the local municipal water supply or private wells. In the majority of cases, these perceptions are not valid scientifically. Natural springs are not considered to be a reliable, safe water supply.

Who monitors roadside springs?

Most roadside springs are not routinely tested and monitored, and are not adequately constructed and protected against surface contaminants. In a recent study of approximately 100 roadside springs in Nova Scotia, 94% of the samples had total coliforms present, and 29% of the samples had fecal coliforms present. These results raise serious concerns about the sanitary quality of many of the roadside springs which are being widely used by the public.

At times there is a Boil Water Advisory sign at our local roadside spring. If there is no such sign, is the water safe to drink?

The absence of a boil advisory sign does not mean that the water is safe. Historical results indicate that the water quality of roadside springs fluctuates. Coliform bacteria are sometimes absent, sometimes present, at the same spring at different times. Many springs have been posted with a boil advisory sign, but unfortunately the signs are often removed. In the past, where pipes have been removed from various springs to discourage their use, the pipes have often been replaced by members of the public.

If I experience a problem with the water in my well and a roadside spring is my usual "back-up", where else can I get water?

If you experience a problem with your well, or do not like the taste of your municipal or private supply, you are advised to consider alternative options to roadside springs. Other sources of supply, such as bottled water, are available. Point-of-use treatment devices can be installed at a tap normally used for drinking water. Please be aware that such treatment devices need care and maintenance to work properly.