6.3 Drinking Water Protection Plans
Drinking Water Protection Plans (DWPPs) are designed to protect water quality and quantity from a wide range of pressures. The plans are typically developed for a specific source of drinking water supply, such as a watercourse, watershed, reservoir or aquifer. Therefore, they are relevant to area-based planning for both surface water (watersheds) and groundwater (aquifers), where the threats to water quality and quantity are dispersed across a wide landscape. Within these plans, it is important to consider all potential threats to the water source; therefore, a watershed-based approach – at the appropriate scale – is particularly relevant.
As of 2011, no DWPPs had been completed or designated in BC. They are considered to be a last resort because of the stringent requirements associated with them, and should only be considered where it can be established that regulatory tools are required to achieve the planning objectives. DWPPs should only be required when other plans fail to address or prevent a threat to drinking water. However, there are circumstances where threats to drinking water could lead to negative consequences (such as a health hazard) where no other measures under the Drinking Water Protection Act would prevent the health hazard from occurring.
Characteristics, Benefits and Applications
DWPPs are authorized under Part 5 of the Drinking Water Protection Act and are intended to address concerns about water quantity and water quality. Based on the recommendation of a drinking water protection officer, the Provincial Health Officer may recommend that the Minister of Health designate an area for a DWPP. Drinking water protection officers are required to consider all other options available under the Drinking Water Protection Act before asking the Provincial Health Officer to consider recommending a plan. To date, no plans have been completed. However, the creation of a Drinking Water Protection Plan has been under consideration for the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island for the past two years. For such plans to be authorized, there would have to be significant impairments to source waters, and an associated health hazard to trigger a planning effort.9
Because they are fairly comprehensive, DWPPs have the potential to be very powerful and effective. They can consider threats to water sources, different methods of treatment, and all matters related to the delivery of safe drinking water. DWPPs are similar in scope to Water Management Plans, which are established under Part 4 of the Water Act (see Section 7 in this guide). Because there is potential for the two types of plans to overlap, the Drinking Water Protection Act and Water Act state that if both types are to be initiated within one particular area, they can be developed jointly.3
Key Elements and Steps
Drinking Water Protection Plans are issued by the provincial government (the Lieutenant Governor with advice from Cabinet) to do one or more of the following:
- require other specified provincial government or local authority strategic or operational planning processes, or classes of such processes, to consider the DWPP;
- require the results of specified provincial government or local authority strategic or operational planning processes, or classes of such processes, to be consistent with the DWPP;
- provide that specified provincial government or local authority strategic or operational plans, bylaws, or other planning documents, or classes of such plans, bylaws, or other documents do not have legal effect to the extent of any inconsistency with the DWPP; and
- a provision under subsection (1) c) applies despite any other enactment.
Some of the key elements and steps in preparing a Drinking Water Protection Plan are as follows:
- A Provincial Health Officer triggers initiation of the plan, and the plan is customized to address the specific water health hazard identified by the Officer;
- The plans are initiated, and have their terms of reference established by an order issued by the Minister of Health;
- The plans are required to consider existing provincial or local government planning processes. These may include strategic, operational, land use or water use plans;
- Preparation of the plans must include an extensive public consultation process;
- The plans are subject to review by the provincial Cabinet and approval by an order of the provincial Cabinet;
- Water suppliers are legally responsible for putting the plans into action; and,
- They are implemented through regulatory actions, which are legally enforceable.
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PROTECTING DRINKING WATER QUALITY