Fraser Basin Council


6.2 Source Water Assessments and Assessment Response Plans

Drinking water source and system assessments are a critical starting point for drinking water protection, and are integral to understanding the state of BC’s drinking water supplies, and what needs to be done to improve them.5 Water providers often do not have any control over land uses in the watersheds from which they get their drinking water. They may not be aware of natural conditions or human activities within a watershed that affect surface and subsurface water quality. Proper assessments can help identify opportunities for preventative or remedial action, and give both the water providers and their customers confidence that source protection is a management priority in the region.6

Under Part 3 of the Drinking Water Protection Act, a drinking water protection officer may order a water supplier to complete a water source and system assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to:

  • assess the drinking water source in relation to land uses within the watershed and activities that may affect the source;
  • inventory the water supply system, including treatment options and operational procedures;
  • assess the monitoring requirements for the drinking water source and water supply system; and
  • identify current and potential future threats to drinking water.

The Ministry of Health has produced both the Source to Tap Screening Tool, which can be used to used as a secondary method for assessing risk in drinking water systems, and the Comprehensive Drinking Water Source-to-Tap Assessment Guideline, which serves as a tool to help water system managers develop a better understanding of the risks to drinking water safety and availability. The guideline provides a structured and consistent approach to evaluating and managing risks to drinking water. The outcomes of a Source Water Assessment determine whether or not an Assessment Response Plan is required.6

Characteristics, Benefits and Applications

FBC_Pic9SMALL.jpgAfter reviewing a completed source and system assessment, a drinking water protection officer may order a water supplier to complete an Assessment Response Plan, as outlined under Section 22 of the Drinking Water Protection Act. These plans are intended to identify measures that can be taken to address identified threats to drinking water.

Currently, the regulations do not state when source water assessments will be required; however, the Drinking Water Officer’s Guide outlines some of the conditions under which an assessment may be required.7 It is not yet clear what role, if any, the public will have in this process.8

Key Elements and Steps

Assessment Response Plans are intended to identify reasonable measures that can be taken to address threats to drinking water, as identified in a Source Water Assessment. Some of the provisions that a drinking water protection officer may ask to be addressed in the plan include:

  • increasing public engagement and awareness to encourage the protection of drinking water sources;
  • the preparation of guides relating to best management and conservation practices;
  • minor or major infrastructure improvements;
  • the initiation of cooperative planning and/or voluntary programs related to water conservation; and
  • recommendations regarding local authority zoning and/or land use regulations.1

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About Rethinking our Water Ways

This website is a guide to help BC communities learn more about planning for local watersheds and water resources, navigate current planning processes, consider relevant issues and challenges — including regional climate change impacts —  and build capacity to develop and implement plans.


The Rethinking our Water Ways guide and website are possible thanks to funding support from the BC Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Canada's Regional Adaptation Collaborative Program. The guide and website were launched and distributed through a series of regional workshops throughout BC, with funding contributions from the Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program, Environment Canada and the Real Estate Foundation of BC. Learn more about our funders and advisors.

We want to hear from you

Share your suggestions for this website, and ideas for future water workshops, with:

Steve Litke
Senior Program Manager
T: 604 488-5358

About the Fraser Basin Council

Rethinking our Water Ways is an initiative of the Fraser Basin Council (FBC), a charitable non-profit society that advances sustainability in the Fraser River Basin, across BC, and beyond. Established in 1997, FBC brings people together from multiple sectors to learn about sustainability and find collaborative solutions to current issues. Learn more about FBC by visiting