Things To Consider Before Building a Home

There may still be snow on the ground but as the days get longer thoughts turn to spring. For some this may mean thinking about what to plant in the garden this year, some may be looking forward to taking their quad out of storage, and still others are thinking of that piece of land on which they hope to build their future home.


There are many things to consider before building a home. There are permits to apply for, plans to be reviewed… and if your new home will be located outside of a municipal service coverage area there are two
very important things to add to the list of considerations – and the first of those is water.


Water is vital to the everyday running of a home, and a lot of thought should go in to selecting a water system. In the North there are two main types; wells and cisterns.


A well is a hole drilled into the water table, from which water is pumped into the home. Determining whether a well is your best option depends on factors like water quality, the well’s capacity, and how many
people’s daily water needs the well will need to meet.


When it comes to water quality, the bacteriological and chemical makeup of the water is the most important consideration.  A bacteria sample will test to ensure there are no disease-causing bacteria in the water,
and that it is safe to drink. A chemical sample will tell us which minerals are present; elements like iron, sodium, or naturally-occurring arsenic – and in what amounts.


The Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines contains information on acceptable levels of such minerals that your test results can be compared with. Homeowners should test their wells for bacteria on a minimum yearly basis; and for chemical and mineral elements every 3-5 years. For more information on wells contact your local EHO or the Ministry of Environment.


The alternative to a well is a cistern – a large container designed to hold water brought in from another source. One important thing to note about cisterns is their need to be cleaned on a yearly basis, or more
frequently if necessary. Another is the importance of using an approved water hauler – one that undergoes regular inspections and has a valid Health Permit.


For instructions on how to clean your cistern, or for more information contact your local EHO.

Regardless of which water system you choose – the water coming into your new home will need somewhere to go after it is used! This means you have another choice to make about what type of sewage disposal system to install; either an in-ground septic system or a sewage lagoon. This will largely depend on the type of soil on your property.


In BC, all sewage systems must conform to the Sewerage System Regulation. This means installations, repairs or maintenance must be done by either a Registered Onsite Wastewater Practitioner (ROWP) or a BC registered Engineer. These authorized persons file documents with the Healthy Authority both before work starts and when it is completed, to help ensure your sewerage system is legal and up to date.


It’s a lot to consider – but the good news is an Environmental Health Officer can help! Contact an EHO for information on wells and sewerage systems; from testing your well-water for bacteria and chemicals, to
properly cleaning a cistern. Your local environmental health officer can also provide you with information on how to access a current list of ROWPs in the province who can install, repair or maintain sewage systems.


Before you break ground this year or perhaps just do some renovations to your existing home; contact an Environmental Health Officer, to ensure that you will have a safe water supply and proper sewage disposal


Sarah Nicklason
Environmental Health Officer
Northern Health