British Columbia Drinking Water Report highlights progress made

There remains a lack of drinking water infrastructure in some smaller communities

VICTORIA – Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall released the 2011

Progress Report on the Action Plan for Safe Drinking Water in British

Columbia today, outlining progress made and highlighting areas for

additional improvement in the province’s drinking water systems.

The report covers programs during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 fiscal years,

and is a mandated function of the PHO under the Drinking Water Protection

Act. During this reporting period, drinking water officers conducted more

than 4,800 water system inspections and government provided $935,000 to

assist in 101 planning projects.

The report highlights progress made on the Province’s drinking water

quality goals set out in the Action Plan for Safe Drinking Water. For

example:

* No community outbreaks of water-borne illness related to drinking water

systems were reported during the reporting period.

* The number of water systems with valid operating permits increased by

over 1,000 to a total of 4,539 in March 2009. In addition, the number of

systems with an emergency response plan increased from under 1,500 in 2007

to over 2,500 in 2009.

* The number of boil-water advisories increased from 480 in 2006 to 604 in

March 2009, reflecting increased emphasis on assessing small systems and

ensuring that those failing to meet safety criteria were issuing

appropriate advisories to their customers.

* Regulations under the Environmental Management Act were introduced or

updated and include measures that will serve to protect drinking water.

* The Ministry of Environment continued to develop water quality

guidelines for specific water quality variables in source water, and

established water quality objectives to protect the most sensitive water

use at a specific location.

* During the reporting period, the Ministry of Community and Rural

Development provided 101 grants to communities to help them plan for

improvements to their drinking water systems.

* Regional drinking water teams were established in each of the regional

health authorities to ensure co-ordination across ministries.

* The Water Action Plan for B.C. was finalized.

Despite this progress, there remain challenges that continue to need

further work. For example, data collection and reporting at a regional and

provincial level continues to be an issue. However, health authorities

have been working to make improvements to their information management

systems.

In addition, there remains a lack of drinking water infrastructure in some

smaller communities. However, protocols do exist to allow transfer of

water systems to local government as local service areas, with full access

to infrastructure grants.

Drinking water quality is crucial to the health and safety of British

Columbians – the Province and health authorities are always working to

make sure B.C.’s drinking water is safe and looking for ways to improve

processes. Through the Ministry of Health and the regional health

authorities, policies and regulations under the Drinking Water Protection

Act continue to be refined to address known and emerging issues, and

maintain high drinking water quality standards.

Dr. Perry Kendall, provincial health officer said, “Government continues to make progress to protect and improve the health of British Columbia’s drinking water systems, though there remains more work to do. Here in B.C., we have over 4,550 water systems, the vast majority of which are small systems. It is important that we continue to work with operators to help them maintain water safety.”

Read the full drinking water report at:

www.health.gov.bc.ca/pho/reports/drinkingwater.html

Read more about drinking water in B.C. and the Drinking Water Protection

Act at: www.health.gov.bc.ca/protect/dw_index.html