Page 2: Guidance For Providing Safe Drinking Water in Areas of Federal Jurisdiction – Version 2


The purpose of this document is to give clear, consistent guidance on how to implement the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (GCDWQ). This guidance is directed to federal civil servants or other responsible authorities whose jobs relate, either directly or indirectly, to ensuring the safety of drinking water on federal lands, in federal facilities and/or in First Nations communities. It is written for employees who make decisions at the policy and management levels, as well as for those who run drinking water systems on a day-to-day basis.

This guidance is applicable to all federal government departments, agencies and responsible authorities operating facilities in areas of federal jurisdiction that provide drinking water to consumers. Consumers in this context include:

  • Federal government employees working in Canada, as well as Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Forces personnel, and Canadian diplomatic mission staff working abroad;
  • Inmates, staff, and visitors to federal correctional facilities;
  • Visitors to federal lands and facilities; and
  • Residents of First Nations communities.

All federal facilities should strive to meet the guidance set out in this document in order to protect the health of the people they serve. In some cases, a department or responsible authority may choose to meet more stringent objectives than those detailed in this document. This decision is left to the discretion of each department or authority. Departments may also choose to bring issues for discussion to the Interdepartmental Working Group on Drinking Water (IWGDW) to benefit from the expertise and experience of other members, as well as from any standard operating procedures developed by other departments. For issues or concerns specific to a given contaminant, the appropriate guideline technical document should be consulted.

It should be noted that the Canada Labour Code (CLC) and its occupational health and safety regulations cover federal government employees in their location of work, and this document provides additional information to help meet the requirements of the CLC. This document does not supersede the CLC and its regulations, or the unique medical and health protection responsibilities in place for some departments, such as Canadian Forces responsibilities established under the National Defence Act.

It is recognized that departments operating unique facilitiesFootnote 1, such as those in remote locations or in locations beyond Canadian borders, may face challenges that prevent them from meeting all the guidance contained in this document in a timely manner. For example, very small systemsFootnote 1 and micro-systemsFootnote 1 face proportionally higher costs, and have less access to sophisticated technologies and adequately trained staff. While fully achieving the guidance in this document is a strong indicator of success, for very small systems and micro-systems, continuous incremental improvements over time should also be used as an indicator of success.

For all systems, a proactive, preventive approach is essential for providing safe drinking water. This approach means establishing priorities for managing risks and protecting public health based on site-specific considerations, using findings from the sanitary survey, the vulnerabilities assessment, and the baseline chemical analysis. An overall plan should be established to prioritize the order in which to address risks to best protect public health and to establish timelines for achieving these improvements. Following such a plan will ensure steady progress to achieving all of the health-based benchmarks in this document. It will also allow departments to maximize the use of limited resources and capacity to address the greatest risks to public health.

Interdepartmental Working Group on Drinking Water (IWGDW)

The IWGDW was created in August 2002 to develop a federal drinking water program that would incorporate an intake-to-tap approach to drinking water quality in all areas of federal jurisdiction. In 2005, it published Version 1 of this document. The Mandate of the IWGDW is two-fold:

  • To maintain this federal guidance document and update it as necessary, so it continues to provide up-to-date guidance on the general elements and activities that are necessary to safeguard drinking water quality in areas of federal jurisdiction; and
  • To be the principal interdepartmental forum for discussing and providing input to issues related to drinking water quality and the GCDWQ.

The IWGDW consists of representatives of federal departments who have responsibilities for producing and/or providing clean, safe and reliable drinking water in areas of federal jurisdiction, as well as the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Current members are listed on Health Canada's water quality website.

Interdepartmental Water Quality Training Board

The Interdepartmental Water Quality Training Board (Training Board) is a sub-group of the IWGDW. The Training Board is developing and disseminating a range of training tools for very small systems in the federal domain. Its focus is systems serving only up to 25 people, as virtually no tools are available to this vulnerable sub-set of drinking water systems.

The training materials from the Training Board are publically available through the Walkerton Clean Water Centre.

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