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2017 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

16. Canadian Drinking Water Policy: Jurisdictional Variation in the Context of Decentralized Water Governance

Authors: Gemma Dunn, Leila Harris, Karen Bakker

Published in: Water Policy and Governance in Canada

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

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Abstract

This chapter reviews Canada’s approach to drinking water governance, focusing on the regulations, policies, practices and institutions related to the management and provision of drinking water. This review is significant given Canada’s highly decentralized approach to water governance. We critically evaluate the implications of decentralization for drinking water safety, examining both the uptake of voluntary national guidelines across Canadian jurisdictions, as well as application of day-to-day microbial risk assessment and management practices in various agencies in two provinces (Ontario and BC). Learning from these analyses, we identify a high degree of variability, specifically: (1) variation in the uptake of national Drinking Water Quality Guidelines across provinces and territories; and (2) considerable variability in microbial risk assessment and management practices across provinces and between agencies. We discuss the implications of these findings in light of ongoing harmonization and subsidiarity debates, as well as discussions as to whether compliance should be voluntary or legally binding. Our analysis indicates that the Canadian approach has contributed to data gaps and urban-rural disparities, and reduced capacity for integrated decision-making and effective oversight.
Footnotes
1
Subsidiarity refers to the delegation of decision-making and policy implementation to the lowest-appropriate scale (Bakker and Cook 2011).
 
2
For the first component of the research, each province and territory drinking water guideline/standard was compared against the 2012 Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines (CDWQG), which are comprised of 94 chemical, physical, microbial, and radiological parameters. These parameters include health considerations (maximum acceptable concentrations (MAC)), aesthetic considerations (aesthetic objectives (AO)), and operational guideline values (operational guidance (OG)) (FPT CDW 2012). The data was compiled into a database, and analyzed for variation across jurisdictions. The second part of this research employed a case study approach examining ‘on-the-ground’ microbial risk assessment and management practices along the source-to-tap spectrum in three case study watersheds from two Canadian provinces (BC and Ontario).
 
3
There are limitations to using E. coli as a surrogate indicator for all pathogens, since strong empirical evidence indicates that E. coli is not always predictive of pathogens occurrence, particularly for viruses and protozoa. I.e. the absence of E. coli is not a guarantee that a water sample is pathogen free (Harwood et al. 2005).
 
4
WSP’s are a risk-based preventative approach to managing drinking water safety from catchment to consumer (source-to-tap). WSP is a comprehensive risk assessment and management plan to identify and prioritize potential threats to water quality at each step in a specific system’s water supply chain (from source to tap) implementing best practices to mitigate threats to drinking water (Bartram et al. 2009; Gelting 2009; Hrudey 2011)
 
5
In the original article (Dunn et al. 2014a) Table 1 lists key industry risk assessment and management tools. The introduction to this paper highlights how risk assessment practices have evolved.
 
6
Whilst there are many “pockets” of data (collected by various federal, provincial, municipal agencies and local interest groups), there is neither an overarching central surveillance or information retrieval system, nor consistency (or guidelines) in collection methods.
 
7
In May 2000, contaminated drinking water supplies in Walkerton, Ontario resulted in 2300 illnesses (almost half the town’s population at that time), 65 hospitalizations, 27 people suffering acute kidney failure and seven deaths (Hrudey and Hrudey 2004; Hamilton et al. 2006; Dupont and Jahan 2012).
 
8
This 2008 report identified British Columbia as having the highest number of BWAs per capita in the country—530 (Eggerston 2008). We conducted a more recent tally of publicly posted BWAs in BC (in November 2013) and found 533 BWAs in effect (Dunn et al. 2014c).
 
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Metadata
Title
Canadian Drinking Water Policy: Jurisdictional Variation in the Context of Decentralized Water Governance
Authors
Gemma Dunn
Leila Harris
Karen Bakker
Copyright Year
2017
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-42806-2_16