Water, wells and septic systems

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Septic systems

Most residents of rural Ottawa are not connected to the City’s water and sewer system. They require a private septic system to deal with household wastewater.

The septic system processes all the wastewater from your home (toilet, bathtub, shower, sink, washing machine and dishwasher). All this wastewater flows to your septic tank, which is a good reason to conserve water usage as much as possible.

To ensure your septic system doesn’t become full, which could back up waste into your home or leech out into the soil, it must be pumped out regularly. It is recommended that a licensed contractor inspect your septic tank for cracks and leaks every three to five years.

Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their own septic systems. To ensure your septic system is working properly, learn how to manage your septic system.

Septic approval and inspection

The Ottawa Septic System Office (OSSO) of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority co-ordinates the review and approval of any septic system installed, altered or repaired, anywhere in Ottawa. Information packages that include the required application forms are available from OSSO, or from the City's Client Service Centres.

Alternatively, you may refer to the Ottawa Septic Office for their fees, application forms and other relevant information.

Well and septic grants through the Rural Clean Water Program

The Ottawa Rural Clean Water Program provides funding for projects that protect surface water and groundwater quality. Rural property owners are eligible to apply for a series of grants including well decommissioning. As of 2016, grants are also available for repairs of faulty septic systems that are close to watercourses or within Wellhead Protection Areas.

Septic system records

If you require a septic record for a system installed 1978 or later, contact the Ottawa Septic System Office. For systems installed prior to 1978, contact Ottawa Public Health or call 613-580-6744.


City-owned wells

In rural areas, the City operates six groundwater well systems. These communal groundwater systems use drilled wells to supply residents in the communities of Carp, Munster Hamlet, Richmond (Kings Park), Richmond West, Greely (Shadow Ridge) and Vars with drinking water. Well water is disinfected using chlorination at each treatment facility. The Vars Well System also uses greensand filtration and activated carbon to remove iron, manganese, and natural organic matter from the groundwater.

The City prepares an annual report for each municipal drinking water system, in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

Source Protection Plans

Municipalities in Ontario are required to develop source protection plans in order to protect their municipal sources of drinking water, as a result of the Clean Water Act

There are two source protection regions covering the City of Ottawa:  the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Region and the Raisin-South Nation Source Protection Region.  Each region has their own source protection plan that identifies risks to local drinking water sources and develops strategies to reduce or eliminate these risks. 

For more information please refer to the following: the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan and Raisin-South Nation Source Protection Plan.    

Private Wells

Free well water testing

Find out more about collecting and submitting your well water for testing (including additional drop-off locations). 

What to do if your well water is contaminated

If your well water is contaminated and unsafe to drink, follow these guidelines.

New wells

When drilling a new well, be sure to use a Licensed Well Contractor approved by the Ministry of the Environment.

How septic systems can contaminate wells

Poorly maintained or damaged septic systems can contaminate ground water with E.coli bacteria or nitrate.

  • E.coli can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even death.
  • Nitrate is a phosphate substitute in cleaning products, laundry soaps, fertilizers, animal excrement and human sewage. Nitrate can destroy the sewage-digesting bacteria in septic systems and is suspected of causing cancer.

Fluoride testing

Free fluoride testing is available for well water. Call 613-580-6744 ext. 23806 for a free water test bottle and instructions. The results of the water test will be mailed to you and include any actions that may be needed.

Well records

If you would like to order a copy of the official well record for your water well, please visit the Ministry of the Environment’s Well Records website or call 1-888-396-WELL (9355).

For more Information

For more information on drinking water call 3-1-1, or contact us at info-water@ottawa.ca.