How Drinking Water is Protected in B.C.
Provincial Drinking Water Policy
The Drinking Water Protection Act outlines general requirements for water suppliers, and the Drinking Water Protection Regulation sets out some more specific requirements. The drinking water legislation in British Columbia is outcome based. In other words, recognizing that different water suppliers and drinking water systems have different needs, it allows for some variation in determining what a water supplier needs to do in order to achieve these requirements.
Drinking water officers have some discretion in making decisions on certain requirements (e.g., treatment requirements) for individual systems. The Ministry of Health has developed, with the support of the health authorities, provincial policies to guide these decisions in order to promote effective, consistent and transparent decision making across the province. These policies do not have the force of law, but, due to their inclusion in the Drinking Water Officers Guide, they must be considered during decision making as per ministerial direction.
Drinking Water Officers’ Guide (December 2014)
The Drinking Water Officers’ Guide contains all provincial policy related to drinking water. The Minister of Health released it in 2007 to guide issuing officials (i.e., drinking water officers and public health engineers) in their decision-making process. The updated and expanded version was released in December 2014.
Structure of the Drinking Water Officers’ Guide
The guide is divided into four sections, including an introduction. Part A provides guidance on interpreting the requirements in the Drinking Water Protection Act and Drinking Water Protection Regulation.
Part B is new to the Drinking Water Officers’ Guide. It contains a series of documents on technical and procedural issues. Most of them were developed and posted online individually, but have now been incorporated in the guide. They include:
- Decision Tree for Responding to a Turbidity Event in Unfiltered Drinking Water
- Drinking Water Treatment Objectives (Microbiological) for Surface Water Supplies in British Columbia
The Appendices provide samples of forms and letters required for fulfilling certain sections of the legislation. The health authorities may use and/or require alternate versions of these forms.
Access the Drinking Water Officers' Guide
- Introduction (PDF, 274KB)
- Part A: Legislative Requirements (PDF, 1.0MB)
- Part B: Best Practices and Technical Assistance (PDF, 1.4MB)
- Appendices (PDF, 839KB)
Drinking Water Treatment Objectives (Microbiological) for Ground Water Supplies in British Columbia
The Drinking Water Treatment Objectives (Microbiological) for Ground Water Supplies in British Columbia, Version 1, November 2015 (PDF, 245KB) have been developed to provide guidance on the treatment objectives expected to be achieved for a ground water source to be considered potable. The document also contains the criteria that must be met for subsurface (riverbank) filtration to be recognized as a potential treatment method. It is considered a supplementary document to the Drinking Water Treatment Objectives (Microbiological) for Surface Water Supplies in British Columbia (now part of the Drinking Water Officers' Guide).
Decision Protocols for Cyanobacterial Toxins in B.C. Drinking Water and Recreational Water
The purpose of Decision Protocols for Cyanobacterial Toxins in B.C. Drinking Water and Recreational Water (PDF, 258KB) is to provide standardized processes (steps) for water suppliers, local governments and health authorities to follow when monitoring cyanobacterial bloom events. Both protocols (for drinking water and recreational water) recommend actions that should be taken to address potential cyanobacterial blooms and associated microcystin issues. This document will soon be incorporated in the Drinking Water Officers' Guide.
Maintaining Water Quality in B.C. Distribution Systems
The distribution system is the portion of the drinking water supply system that conveys potable water from the treatment plant or source to the consumer. Distribution systems are at risk of breaches in system integrity that could negatively impact the microbiological quality of the potable water. The British Columbia Guidelines (Microbiological) on Maintaining Water Quality in Distribution Systems were developed to provide provincial guidance to drinking water officers and water suppliers for making decisions related to implementing the multi-barrier approach to protecting and maintaining microbiological water quality in water supply distribution systems. These guidelines include specific guidance for implementing the best risk management practice of secondary disinfection.