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Revisions to Ontario’s Drinking Water Quality Management Standard

Revisions to Ontario’s Drinking Water Quality Management Standard

By Christopher Manning, PMP
Licensing Program Coordinator, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

The Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 requires all municipal drinking water systems in Ontario to have an accredited operating authority. Operating authorities are accredited to the requirements of Ontario’s Drinking Water Quality Management Standard.

In April, 2017 the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change published revisions to the Drinking Water Quality Management Standard on the Environmental Registry as registry number 012-5530.

The revised Standard, referred to as Version 2.0, was developed in partnership with the water sector, and incorporates feedback from stakeholders and stakeholder groups representing large, small and rural municipalities across the province.

Key Changes to the Drinking Water Quality Management Standard

Flexible Timelines

The Standard requires many items to be undertaken annually, including the internal audit and a management review of the system. Language in the Standard has been revised to allow some flexibility in scheduling these activities within a calendar year.

Clarified Requirements for Different Types of System

Communities in Ontario are served by drinking water systems of varying size and complexity. To help ensure consistent interpretation, requirements for different types of system (e.g., treatment systems and distribution only systems) have been clarified.

Consideration of Climate Change

Climate change can have a direct impact on both the infrastructure and operation of a drinking water system, and has the potential to change what is considered “normal” operation. The Standard has been revised to ensure that all system owners are aware of these risks and consider them in their infrastructure planning activities.

Continual Improvement

A quality management system must be flexible enough to meet the needs of a changing organization, the requirements of changing infrastructure and to keep pace with changing technologies. Just like a robust infrastructure maintenance program, improvement to the quality management system should not be limited to fixing things as they fail. The Standard has been revised to ensure that both proactive and reactive approaches are taken to ensure continual improvement of the system.

What do the changes mean for system owners and operating authorities?

The Accreditation Protocol has been updated to enable a transition period, allowing any necessary changes to operational plans and/or operating procedures to be made in conjunction with other activities.

As an accredited operating authority:

  • You will be expected to update your risk assessment procedures prior to your next scheduled risk assessment. Your next risk assessment should consider the mandatory risks that have been defined within Version 2.0 of the Standard;
  • You will be expected to implement any other necessary changes prior to the first audit of your system that occurs in 2019. Until this time, your auditor will continue to assess the conformance of your system to the requirements of the original Drinking Water Quality Management Standard;
  • You may choose to transition to the new requirements early. Prior to your next audit, simply indicate to your accreditation body that your operational plan and procedures have been updated to conform to Version 2.0 of the Standard;
  • Your accreditation body has now established a formal two-stage appeal process for accreditation findings, to help ensure consistent interpretation and application of the requirements of the Standard.

As a municipal drinking water system owner:

  • Your operating authority will likely be reporting to you on projected impact of the changes to your quality management system, along with a proposed or projected timing for transitioning to the new requirements.

To obtain a copy of the revised Drinking Water Quality Management Standard or to provide feedback on any additional changes you would like to see considered in future revisions to the Standard, please contact the Safe Drinking Water Branch of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change at MDWLP@Ontario.ca.

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