Guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality boron: Monitoring

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All water utilities should implement a risk management approach such as the source-to-tap or water safety plan approach to ensure water safety (CCME, 2004; WHO, 2011, 2012). These approaches require a system assessment to 1) characterize the source water; 2) describe the treatment barriers that prevent or reduce contamination; 3) identify the conditions that can result in contamination; and 4) implement control measures. Operational monitoring is then established and operational/management protocols are instituted (for example, standard operating procedures, corrective actions and incident responses). Compliance monitoring is determined and other protocols to validate the water safety plan are implemented (for example, record keeping, consumer satisfaction). Operator training is also required to ensure the effectiveness of the water safety plan at all times (Smeets et al., 2009).

Source water characterization

Source water characterization should be part of routine system assessments. Boron is not widely distributed in source water in Canada and tends to be present at elevated concentrations only in groundwater in certain areas. Therefore, utilities should consult the responsible authority to determine if boron may be present in groundwater in their area before establishing monitoring requirements. When boron is present in source water, the frequency of monitoring is linked to treatment and compliance monitoring as discussed below.


Where treatment is required to remove boron, operational monitoring should be implemented to confirm whether the treatment process is functioning as required. The frequency of operational monitoring will depend on the treatment process that is in place.

Compliance monitoring

Compliance monitoring (that is, paired samples of source and treated water to confirm the efficacy of treatment) should be conducted quarterly.

Distribution system

Given that no information is available on the potential for boron to accumulate and release in distributions systems, monitoring in the distribution system may not be needed. However, utilities that have aluminium or iron oxide deposits may need to confirm that the accumulation and release of boron (along with other metals such as manganese, arsenic and uranium) is not occurring in the system if boron is present in the source water.


Households with private wells are also encouraged to have their water tested for boron to ensure that the concentration in their water supply is below the MAC. Boron can be present in groundwater in certain areas in Canada, in particular in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Information on the geographical areas that may have elevated boron concentrations may be available from the appropriate province/territory. Since plants are sensitive to the concentration of boron in water, difficulty in growing some indoor and outdoor plants including browning around the edges of leaves may provide an indication that boron is present in well water. Water containing more than 1 mg/L of boron typically affects some plants and can be used as an indication that well water contains elevated levels of boron. To determine if boron is present in well water, samples should be collected periodically and submitted to an accredited laboratory for analysis.

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