Providing safe drinking water to Canadians calls for a sound management plan from source to tap. It has been demonstrated that the most effective way to manage drinking water from source to tap is to implement a multi-barrier approach.
From Source to Tap: The multi-barrier approach to safe drinking water
(Adobe Acrobat PDF; 341kb)
This short position paper outlines the elements of a multi-barrier approach which would help ensure Canadian drinking water supplies are kept clean, safe and reliable for generations to come.
From Source to Tap: Guidance on the Multi-barrier Approach to Safe Drinking Water
(Adobe Acrobat PDF; 2526 kb)
This technical guidance document is a companion document to the May 2002 position paper. The document provides guidance to drinking water system owners and operators on how to apply the concept of the multi-barrier approach to Canadian drinking water supplies from source to tap. It also gives them language and tools for communicating their activities to decision-makers and consumers. In addition, the document gives decision-makers at the municipal, provincial and federal levels a structure for integrating health and environmental issues, for collaborating and sharing information, and for setting priorities.
The multi-barrier approach looks at all the components of a drinking water system and identifies safeguards needed to provide safe drinking water. Different systems can have different critical components and that is why specific tools or actions chosen as safeguards can vary accordingly. Isolated, safeguards may not remove or prevent contamination, but together they offer greater assurance drinking water will be clean, safe and reliable.
Components of the multi-barrier approach
Source water protection
Taking action to prevent contaminants from reaching water sources (lakes, rivers and underground water) is an important step in protecting water quality.
Drinking water treatment
Drinking water treatment involves all the processes, techniques and systems used to clean water before it is distributed for use. Safeguards can be built into treatment -- checks and balances - so that problems can be detected at one level if another fails.
Drinking water distribution systemsThe following safeguards are important for each of the components:
Protecting public health is a key factor in the design, construction, review and upgrading of treated water reservoirs and distribution systems.
The successful management of the drinking water supply from source to tap requires the commitment and co-operation of a wide array of stakeholders representing a variety of fields (e.g. health, environment, agriculture, industry, waste management). It also requires qualified personnel to run the various aspects of the treatment and distribution systems.
Monitoring helps to find out if water is safe for human uses, as well as how clean lakes and rivers are for plants, fish, and wildlife, and to determine if clean-ups or pollution prevention activities are working as planned.
Scientists in Canada are finding out more about what can be harmful in water, the sources of some of the toxic substances found in water, and what these substances are doing to the environment and the potential implications for human health.
Guidelines, Standards and Objectives
Safe water also involves water quality guidelines for use as “yardsticks” for evaluating water quality and to protect human and aquatic health.
Legislative and policy frameworks
There are laws in municipalities, provinces and territories, as well as in the federal government, all aimed at ensuring water quality from source to tap.
Public involvement and awareness
Public involvement and awareness can be enhanced by providing information about health risks and water management, providing monitoring results on a regular basis, and consulting with the public when making decisions about water.
All illustrations are by Marc Bélanger