Drinking Water

A rural drinking water study conducted by Dr. Kelly Vodden, Sarah Minnes and team from the Environmental Policy Institute of Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.  The report entitled “Exploring solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water Systems: A study on Rural Newfoundland and Labrador Drinking Water Systems” can be found in it’s entirety on the Harris Centre’s website. (http://www.mun.ca/harriscentre/Rural_Water_Report.pdf)

This report (2014) is the culmination of significant research, analysis and consultations with representatives across the province from municipalities and local service districts with populations of 1,000 or less.  It is important to note that this research does not outline all of the issues in the province concerning drinking water but does provide an overview of the most prevalent issues.

One of the major concerns raised in by investigators was the serious health risks associated with untreated or inadequately treated water and with disinfectant by-products or (DBPs).  DBPs are known carcinogens that can occur when organics in the water mix with chlorine, which is commonly used in municipal water supplies to disinfect the water.

Chlorine use and misuse has also been identified as a prominent concern. While primary research related to public perception was not a focus, we found that a distaste for chlorinated or discoloured drinking water was a serious concern for some residents causing them to turn to untreated water sources such as roadside springs.

Finding and retaining certified water operators is also a significant challenge.  Local governments struggle with maintaining and upgrading their water infrastructure. In addition, strategic management of drinking water infrastructure, including leak detection programs and access to all related blueprints and as-builts, is lacking, especially in communities with uncertified water operators.

Watershed protection is overlooked and almost non-existent. Mostly due to the lack of human capacity at the local level, source water protection efforts are often overlooked. Overall, investigators found that there is insufficient funding and human resources at both the local and provincial levels to achieve sustainable drinking water systems.

Providing clean and safe drinking water to residents is a core municipal issue with provincial agencies playing a lead role.  However, lack of proper technical, financial and human capacity at both the local and provincial levels is leaving many smaller municipalities without the resources they need to manage their public drinking water systems.

The report does not lay blame or single out one stakeholder in particular, but rather brings to light the serious challenges facing our sector in the delivery of safe drinking water to our residents.  One of the fundamental challenges it identifies is the serious underfunding of municipal governments.  This report is one of the strongest arguments we have for a new fiscal framework agreement.

MNL was a contributing partner in the research to highlight the voids in the current system and avert a potentially serious tragedy due to poorly managed public water systems.

 

Link to download the summary: Exploring solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water SystemsExploring solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water Systems