FAQs: Water Suppliers

  1. My system serves more than 500 people in a 24-hour period, but only some of the time (e.g., summer season). Does this mean my system will be considered a small system some of the time and have the requirements of a larger system at other times?

The drinking water officer should be consulted to determine the requirements for your specific system and situation. In general, if your system serves more than 500 people in any 24-hour period, it is not a small system as defined under the Drinking Water Protection Act.

  1. Is certification of water operators still required for small systems?

No. However, the drinking water officer has the discretion to require certification if he/she feels that it is necessary given the complexity of a specific system.

  1. Are the requirements the same for construction and operation of groundwater sources of drinking water supplies as they are for surface water sources?

In most regards, yes. However, there are also certification, qualifications and registration requirements for well drillers and well pump installers under the Groundwater Protection Regulation of the Water Sustainability Act. Qualified well drillers and well pump installers, registered with the Province, are required to undertake many aspects of well construction, repair, alteration, etc., that well owners or system operators are not permitted to do on their own. There are also well identification requirements.

  1. What type of training may be required if certification of water system operators is not required?

The drinking water officer may require a small system operator to take training so he/she can identify when there is a drinking water quality concern that needs further investigation. An example of this background training is the Water Safe Course or a BCWWA small water systems course. (BCWWA stands for the BC Water & Waste Association.)

  1. What is meant by an “uncertified specialist”?

An “uncertified specialist” is a person who is not certified by the Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP), but has specialist knowledge in maintaining and repairing a water supply system. They can do the work, provided the maintenance or repair is conducted following procedures approved by a person certified by the Environmental Operators Certification Program. See Drinking Water Protection Regulation, section 12(6).

  1. What is “specialist knowledge”?

“Specialist knowledge” means:

  • Knowledge acquired by some specific form of training or experience (e.g., a service representative from an equipment manufacturer with specialized technical knowledge of water treatment and distribution equipment).
  • The specialist knowledge must be “immediately relevant” to the maintenance or repair.
  1. How is discretionary authority used to determine if the requirement for a small system construction permit can be waived?

Issues that are considered when making decisions on construction permits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The nature and complexity of the system.
  • The knowledge and experience of people undertaking the construction.
  • The water source and potential risks associated with it that may require specialized equipment or construction practices.
  1. What is the EOCP and what is its role in the legislation?

The EOCP stands for the Environmental Operators Certification Program. The EOCP is named in the Drinking Water Protection Act and the Drinking Water Protection Regulation as the body charged with classifying water supply systems in order to determine training requirements for operators of different system types. The EOCP is also responsible for administering certification tests for water operators. For more information on operator certification and water system classification, please visit the EOCP web site.

  1. How many certified operators will I need at each system classification level?

Owners/operators need to develop a plan regarding how to ensure their system is managed and overseen according to their system’s classification level. If a system has been classified as a Level IV system, at least one Level IV operator is required and the system must not be left in the care of anyone with less than a Level III certification.

The identification of on-call operators should be referenced in the plan, as they will be required if the on-site operator is ill, on vacation or not required on site permanently during the given shift – or, in particular, in the event of an emergency or emergency repair requiring supervision of maintenance personnel.

  1. What if I can’t get the required or recommended number of certified operators to oversee the management of the waterworks system?

Your plan should outline how you will achieve the requirements and indicate how you will ensure safe operation of your water supply system in the interim. The drinking water officer may consider revising your operating permit according to your plan provided that he/she is satisfied that doing so does not pose an unacceptable health risk to your consumers.

In granting a water supplier an extension of time in which to retain the required or recommended number of certified operators to oversee the management of the waterworks system, the drinking water officer will consider factors such as whether a reasonable time frame has been proposed by the water supplier and whether the water system will be maintained with minimal risk to public health as a result of:

  • The operator being aware of the need for certification and training.
  • The operator paying special attention to ensure that the water system is operated properly.
  • The operator confirming their understanding of the requirements stipulated in the extension in writing to the drinking water officer.
  1. What if I can’t afford to send my operators for the required training needed for certification?

Certification of waterworks operators is required under the Drinking Water Protection Regulation. Operating a system without staff that understand and have the core knowledge necessary to run a system is not permitted. As training relates to the direct operation of a water system, an option to address the cost implications is to look into incorporating the cost of training in water rates.

  1. Does a person who does maintenance on my system, such as a painter, require certification under the Environmental Operators Certification Program?

No, only people whose actions may affect the operation of a water system will required to be certified.

If your system uses groundwater as its supply source, please note that the maintenance of a well is an aspect of constructing a well under the Water Sustainability Act. It must be undertaken by a qualified well driller, or under the direct supervision of a qualified well driller or qualified professional with competency in hydrogeology or geotechnical engineering.

Painting a pump house may not amount to maintaining a well, but systems operators should be aware of the Groundwater Protection Regulation before undertaking more substantive maintenance programs. See Groundwater Wells for a summary of groundwater and well requirements.

  1. If a source assessment response plan is required for my system, how should I address zoning or land use issues around my source water supply when I have no control or authority over them?

Please bring your concerns to the attention of your drinking water officer who may be able to help you by talking to those whose actions may be affecting the drinking water supply.

  1. As a water supplier, if I know of a problem do I have to wait for the health authority to issue a boil water advisory or can I do it without their approval?

If a water supplier is aware of an actual or potential hazard (e.g., from a laboratory report), he/she must notify the drinking water officer and issue a public notification indicating there is a threat to drinking water. This notification is sometimes issued as a boil water advisory or notice.

  1. As a water supplier, am I required to make an annual report? If so, what do I include in the report, and to whom do I address it?

An annual report is required under section 11 of the Drinking Water Protection Regulation. In general, the report will contain water quality monitoring results as required by the Drinking Water Protection Regulation, specific requirements set in your operating permit and any other matters identified required by your drinking water officer. You should work with your drinking water officer to determine the specific contents of your annual report.

A water supplier must make the annual report publicly available to all consumers. This may be carried out in one or many ways, such as putting a notice in the local newspaper, posting on a web site or sending a notice through the mail.

  1. My system serves fewer than 500 people, but I have a very complex treatment and disinfection process. Is it still classified as a small water system?

Your system would still be classified as a small system. However, given the complexity of the system, the drinking water officer may require the system operator to be certified as an operator under the Environmental Operators Certification Program for that type of system. Please consult with your drinking water officer to determine the requirements for you and your system.

  1. I have multiple connections on my individual property and I get my water from a permitted municipal system. Does this mean I’m exempt from the Drinking Water Protection Act?

You are not exempt if the water is being distributed for domestic purposes (consumption or food preparation), unless your situation fits the criteria for a “building system,” as defined in the Drinking Water Protection Regulation. If you are unsure, please consult with your drinking water officer.

  1. I’m a water supplier supplying water from a shallow well. I don’t disinfect the water, but I have been told that I might have to. Why do I have to do this when I’ve never had a problem?

If a well is under the influence of surface water, or otherwise at risk of containing pathogens, the water supplier is required to disinfect the water supply.

  1. My water source is a surface supply that receives disinfection by chlorination only. I’ve been told that chlorine does little to control cryptosporidium. Is this true? If it is, do I have to install an expensive filtration system?

Chlorination does little to control cryptosporidium. The risk of having cryptosporidium in a particular water supply is largely a factor of the source of the water supply. Ultraviolet treatment is another alternative to filtration that is effective at controlling cryptosporidium. Consult with your drinking water officer to determine whether any future long-term infrastructure upgrades should be developed for your water system.