Some Whitehorse coffee shop owners say the increasing hardness of the city's water is taking a toll on their equipment.

Hard water has higher levels of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, than soft water. The dissolved minerals can cause build-up in appliances such as kettles, coffee-makers and water heaters.

There's speculation that water hardness has become worse in recent years because the city gradually shifted from using mostly surface water to using well water. 

Katya McQueen, owner-operator of Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters, says she's not blaming the city. She says she tests the water about every four months. She says after years of stability the mineralization level suddenly jumped way up. Then her espresso machine stopped working because of calcium buildup in its boiler.

Hard water calcium deposits

Calcium buildup from hard water, like that pictured on this boiler, can be curbed with a little preventative maintenance according to Saint John Water commissioner Brent McGovern. (CBC)

"If you take this off and you pull it out, you'll always see a bit of calcium buildup because that's just what happens," she says. "However when I opened it up this time, this is what I saw, and that's a lot. That's a big problem."

McQueen says the machine will be sent to Vancouver for maintenance. In the meantime, she's using a backup.

McQueen says she doesn't use water softeners because she believes they change the taste of the coffee. But she's considering alternatives.

"We're now looking into a fancier, more expensive water filtration system than the one we currently have," she says. "Something that will make me happy, won't make the coffee taste weird and will do all the things it needs to do. So that will be another cost that we'll look at this year."

The owner of Tim Hortons in Whitehorse says calcification in his equipment is a weekly issue. Doug Terry says it's possible Tim Hortons spends more on the problem in Whitehorse than anywhere else in the country. 

A City of Whitehorse official said it has not been contacted by the affected businesses and it would want to see examples of the calcification before making any comment.

The official also said its water meets federal guidelines.