dreamstime xxl 15302002 - tap water into glassBuilding Sustainable Small Water Systems

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 two or more 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 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.
  • Ineffective communication 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 that do not adequately cover future expenses.
  • Inadequate fiscal management tools to plan for future expenses.

This project is continuing into 2018 with a number of activities aimed at continuing to support small systems in increasing their knowledge, making informed decisions, and taking action towards long-term sustainability of their water systems:

  1. Five more “Taking Care of Our Small Water Systems” workshops are scheduled, at no cost to attend, in the following regions:
    • May 13, 2018 in Penticton


  1. Local networking sessions are being held in eight communities where workshops have been offered to build and strengthen local support networks. Participants can access presentations from local experts and create supportive linkages to other small water systems, equipment suppliers and service providers. It is an opportunity to meet others who are facing similar challenges and share knowledge and gain support. The schedule and topics for these sessions are under development and will be available on the BCWWA website shortly. 
  1. Opportunity to apply for 1:1 Coaching from Technical Experts, which includes up to eight hours of coaching from consultants with expertise in small water systems. Participants may choose individual coaching to address their specific system needs or, depending on regional proximity, pool their coaching hours with others in the group who are experiencing similar issues. Available to five water systems in BC.
  1. Long-Term Sustainability Planning intended to increase awareness about the legal responsibilities, risks and financial best practices among all members of your governance body (e.g. strata council, water user community, improvement district board of trustees, etc.). The goal is to develop a collective understanding and support for changes required for your system. Available to up to 20 water systems in BC.

What are the benefits of participating?

You will receive information and tools to effectively plan for financial sustainability, operational resilience and system safety. Participating in the project will also provide the opportunity to connect and network with other small water system owners and operators in the region. As a group, there will be access to peer support and the opportunity to learn collectively from the challenges, issues and progress faced by others.

For more information about these training opportunities feel free to contact me.

Ashifa Dhanani
Project Manager – Small Water Systems, BC Water & Waste Association.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 604-880-8585

Learn more about the challenges facing small water systems

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