In 2015, the Ministry of Health funded a pilot project to assist small water systems in building the capacity they need to plan for, achieve and maintain compliance with BC drinking water standards in a cost effective and sustainable manner. The project targeted small water system owners (including trustees and directors that represent owners) and operators of small systems in BC. A small water system is considered to be any system that has more than two connections and serves up to 500 people.


A workshop was developed to introduce owners to their responsibilities and risks, help them self-assess the potential risk areas within their system, and point them to additional tools and resources to address their risks. The concept was based on a similar program that was run successfully in Ontario. Nine workshops were delivered across the province to 99 small water systems, at no cost to attend. The workshops were also attended by local Drinking Water Officers, representing the local regional health authorities. In many cases, health authority staff provided additional tools and resources, answered questions, and identified themselves as a resource for participants during and after the workshop. They also added value by sharing local success stories and lessons learned from within the region.


In these regional workshops, participants conducted a self-assessment based on the four areas of capacity; technical; financial, operational and managerial. A compilation of the results identified the following areas of vulnerability:


  • Little to no real-time monitoring and alarming equipment in place.
  • A lack of standardized, documented management programs and procedures.
  • Poor effective external linkages with the community regarding water system improvements.
  • Incomplete inventories of water system infrastructure assets.
  • While the participants generally felt comfortable that they were tracking and planning for typical day-to-day operating expenses, there was a lack of financial planning for long-term expenses and significant upgrades.
  • Water rate structures in place that do not adequately cover future expenses.
  • Inadequate fiscal management tools in place to plan for future expenses.


Download the project report for details


The project will be continuing with a number of activities to help support small systems increase their knowledge, make informed decisions, and take action towards the long-term sustainability of their water systems.