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 more specific requirements. 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., how water is treated) 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 which are found in the Drinking Water Officers Guide (the Guide), must be considered during decision-making as per ministerial direction.

Drinking Water Officers’ Guide (August 2017)

The Drinking Water Officers’ Guide contains all provincial health policy related to drinking water. In 2007, the Minister of Health released the document to guide issuing officials (i.e., drinking water officers and public health engineers) in their decision-making process. The August 2017 version incorporates guidance and policies that have been developed since the last update in 2014

Structure of the Drinking Water Officers’ Guide

The Guide is divided into four sections:  an introduction, Part A, Part B and an Appendix. Part A provides guidance on interpreting the requirements in the Drinking Water Protection Act and Drinking Water Protection Regulation. Part B contains a series of documents on technical and procedural issues. 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.

New in the 2017 version:

Throughout the Guide, references to the Water Act have been changed to reflect the new Water Sustainability Act, which came into force on February 29, 2016.

In Part A of the Guide, a new subsection was added, indicating departures from the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.

In Part B, three guidance documents for drinking water policy were added:

  • Decision Protocols for Cyanobacterial Toxins in B.C. Drinking Water and Recreational Water
  • the Drinking Water Treatment Objectives for Ground Water Supplies in British Columbia; and
  • British Columbia Guidelines (Microbiological) on Maintaining Water Quality in Distribution Systems.

Each document in Part B is now available for separate download, allowing for easier distribution of pertinent information.

The Appendices section has been streamlined to include only current material. Resources from the Emergency Response and Contingency for Small Water Systems document have been added:

  • Appendix 1: Sample Drinking Water Officer Delegation
  • Appendix 2: Emergency Response and Contingency Plan Template

 Drinking Water Officers' Guide (2017)

Reducing Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water

The guidance document, Guidelines on Evaluating and Mitigating Lead in Drinking Water Supplies, Schools, Daycares and Other Buildings (PDF, 1.2MB), is a comprehensive resource of best practices for evaluating and mitigating lead in drinking water. It is targeted for use by Drinking Water Officers, but may also be a useful tool for those coordinating lead evaluation and sampling programs. It covers roles and responsibilities, evaluation of lead risks in communities, schools, daycares and other buildings, as well as mitigation measures that can be taken. The guidance document reflects the recent changes by Health Canada's technical guidance on lead.

This guidance compliments the Ministry of Education's policy on Testing Lead Content in Drinking Water of School Facilities

New Manganese Guidelines in Drinking Water 

On May 9, 2019, Health Canada released manganese guidelines for drinking water which includes a new health-based maximum acceptable concentration. To support the implementation of these new guidelines, the B.C. Ministry of Health has developed the document Guidance on Manganese in Drinking Water. The provincial guidance document provides resources to assist in assessing, communicating and managing risks related to manganese in drinking water. 

New Guidance on Rainwater Harvesting for Potable Use

The guidance document, Guidance for Treatment of Rainwater Harvested for Potable Use in British Columbia (PDF, 479KB), is a resource for Drinking Water Officers as well as water system owners planning to install rainwater collection and treatment systems for drinking water. The guidance is intended for drinking water systems that require permits; domestic systems that serve only one single family residence are exempt from these guidelines, though owners may use them to develop safe systems that protect the health of household water users. The document covers the regulatory framework, risk assessment, design considerations, standards for treatment, monitoring and operation.