Drinking Water Safety Plans - Exploring Options and Obstacles for Small Systems in Canada

People on project:

Graham Gagnon

Drinking Water Safety Plans - Exploring Options and Obstacles for Small Systems in Canada

The World Health Organization has identified a multiple barrier approach as one of the most effective methods for securing the safety of a drinking water supply. Here, risks within a drinking water supply from catchment to consumer are identified, their impact is evaluated, and a risk management and monitoring plan is developed.
The Centre for Water Resources Studies is involved in two initiatives looking at the implementation and use of a multiple barrier approach. Here the focus is specifically on the implementation of a multiple barrier approach within Canada's small drinking water systems (small systems). Small is defined in this research as those systems supplying fewer than 5,000 people.  
A) Canadian Water Network Research Initiative

Project timeline: January 2012 - December 2013

In late 2011 the province of Alberta initiated a strategy requiring all water utilities to develop drinking water safety plans (DWSPs). DWSPs encompass a multiple barrier approach to water supply management similar to that outlined by the World Health Organization. Alberta's regulatory requirement is the first of its kind in Canada.

As in other jurisdictions across the country, Alberta traditionally addressed the public health aspects of drinking water through reactive techniques, including compliance monitoring. The move towards the use of DWSPs to manage water supplies signals a more proactive approach. The DWSP tool is one that can prepare operators to better anticipate and eliminate risks within a water supply, and diminish the impact of these risks over the long term.

In 2012 Dalhousie University entered into a 2-year contract with the Canadian Water Network to investigate the implication of mandatory DWSPs on small communities in Alberta. The strength of this research lies in its novel, qualitative approach. Findings from this work will be disseminated widely at conferences, to policy and decision-makers, and to water operators in locations across Canada. 

B) Council of the Federation Water Stewardship Council Research Initiative

Project timeline: February - October 2013

The Drinking Water for Small and Rural Communities Initiative of the Council of the Federation Water Stewardship Council aims to identify gaps and barriers, evaluate risk, build capacity, share information and provide options for communities across Canada. Small systems often face challenges with respect to technical, human, and financial resource constraint not experienced in other medium or large-sized communities. This project aims to develop a centralized and consistent resource-base for guidance materials specific to the challenges faced by small systems. This resource will be useful to both decision-makers and operators, and will help to minimize redundacy in resource deployment. 

The objectives of this project are to: 

  1. Review existing guidance materials on improving technical, human and fiscal capacities within small drinking water systems. 
  2. Identify gaps in these guidance materials. 
  3. Address these gaps through the development of new guidance materials.

Guidance Document Links