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However, the increase in drinking water advisories can also be a concern given the high frequency of risks detected, which suggests infrastructure or maintenance problems are common. Although drinking water advisories have increased, most are revoked on average within a year of being issued with short-term boil water advisories being revoked on average within three months.

The most common reasons for issuing drinking water advisories are inadequate disinfection or disinfectant residuals, unacceptable microbiological quality, equipment malfunction during treatment or distribution. Water systems under drinking water advisories for equipment malfunction during treatment or distribution appear to increase the average duration of advisories likely because these reasons are more difficult to address and required more resources.

As such, the number of long-term drinking water advisories is also increasing. Case study participants indicated that boil water advisories are most often implemented because of freezing pipes in winter, flooding, unpredictable water sources i. Communities where new plants had been constructed indicated that the number of advisories had reduced subsequent to construction, suggesting that new infrastructure does play a role. Given the relative newness of these infrastructure projects, however, it is not possible to tell whether the improvements with respect to boil advisories was because of equipment that was simply new and thus, less apt to fail, or because the equipment was customized to the unique needs of the community i.

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About 45 percent of survey respondents stated their water and wastewater infrastructure was good or very good, while 35 percent said it was satisfactory and 20 percent said it was poor or very poor. Participants' ranking of whether or not the infrastructure has improved was highly dependent Footnote 22 on their ranking of whether or not the water quality has improved. Most comments among those saying the infrastructure has become worse related to issues with equipment and aging infrastructure.

Similarly, those who indicated it has improved cited specific infrastructure projects and investments as contributing to improvements. Importantly, the measures above do not adequately speak to water source quality and risk.

Water/Wastewater Courses and Certification

As discussed in more detail in Section 4. It was noted in Part 2 of the Report of the Walkerton Inquiry Footnote 23 that the first barrier to the contamination of drinking water involves protecting the sources of drinking water. In that report it was recommended that the province of Ontario adopt a watershed-based planning process.

Footnote It is too soon to tell whether ongoing investments in water and wastewater systems, along with the ability of the federal government to enact Regulations stemming from the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, will result in community systems meeting federal standards. There is concern that focussing on enforceable standards without ensuring First Nations have adequate infrastructure and capacity to meet those standards may overlook the core limitations facing First Nations water and wastewater systems.

Following the completion of the National Assessment, AANDC committed to identify concrete actions in the areas of capacity building and training, enforceable standards and protocols, and infrastructure investments. In , AANDC followed up with inspections through the department's Annual Performance Inspections cycle, which assessed water and wastewater systems in order to determine their risk management levels and progress since the National Assessment. Projects funded included the construction of new treatment facilities and water and wastewater storage facilities, the expansion of existing systems, and the servicing of lots for new home construction.

Over the same period, 48 major water and wastewater infrastructure projects were completed. Additionally, new Circuit Rider Training Program guidelines were developed to help standardise the program and to support system operators in improving the management of operations and maintenance of their systems.

The Annual Performance Inspection results — indicated that Having in place effective standards and technology was another recommendation of the Report of the Walkerton Inquiry, as well as adopting a government-wide drinking water policy and Act for Ontario. Respecting First Nations, the Government of Canada has moved forward with the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act , which now allows the Governor in Council, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, to make regulations governing the provision of drinking water and the disposal of wastewater on First Nation lands although the latter was already in place via the Water Systems Effluent Regulations Footnote This is the first step toward what could be considered "federal standards" in the sense that this is the first stage of developing a federal standard or compliance mechanism that can now be articulated clearly and enforced.

With respect to water and wastewater systems specifically, the Act allows for the creation of regulations for the location, design, construction, modification, maintenance, operation and decommissioning of drinking water and wastewater systems, as well as the distribution of drinking water by truck. While the outcome of meeting federal standards may seem reasonable, there is concern that the focus on the authority for legal enforcement, as opposed to operational competence and knowledge transfer, may be overlooking key limitations with the current system.

Footnote 26 The biggest successes noted by survey, interview and case study participants related to major infrastructure upgrades, and the biggest limitations related to human resources and limited funding for Operations and Maintenance — there was no discussion on major limitations being the result of a lack of federal regulations.

The current Act does not necessarily imply funding obligations, and there is no reason to assume that enforceable regulations will help enable communities to meet federal standards without adequate capacity and infrastructure investments. Interviewees expressed some anxiety that the Act may represent a regulatory framework for the federal government with significant financial obligations for First Nations, and those financial obligations may or may not be adequately supported by the federal government.

Ultimately, the investments in infrastructure and capacity as well as major capital investments are ongoing currently with FNWWAP authorities in effect until , and the Act allowing for federal standards only came into effect in June It is thus too soon to tell whether these initiatives will enable communities to meet federal standards as they have not yet been fully articulated, and there is concern that the creation of enforceable standards will not address the real issues facing First Nation water and wastewater systems.

The regulations are intended, however, to clarify the standards to be met, and provide the means to measure whether or not they are actually being met within any given system. There have been noticeable but relatively modest improvements in confidence in drinking water in First Nation communities since the introduction of FNWWAP. Perceptions of water quality and safety are difficult to measure and do not necessarily equate to actual quality and safety; however, one can assume that if there are consistent indications of improvements in safety and quality, particularly to a point where it is consistent with other Canadian municipalities, then confidence will increase.

Among survey respondents, 62 percent generally agreed that the quality of their drinking water was comparable to that enjoyed by other Canadians in communities of similar size and isolation. About 15 percent were not sure, and 23 percent did not agree. Whether their community had a water treatment facility or not seemed to have no bearing on this estimate.

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Water-quality trading : a guide for the wastewater community | UTS Library

Among those disagreeing, there was an equal mix of those viewing this lack of confidence as based on actual risks and those viewing it based on a lack of information and trust issues with the water supply often due to past problems or frequent advisories. Opinion polling conducted by EKOS Research Associates in , and Footnote 29 showed some modest improvements in confidence over time. The proportion of respondents ranking their water quality as "bad" decreased from 33 percent to 25 percent from to , and those ranking it as "good" increased from 44 percent to 49 percent. Critically, however, there was a sharp divide between First Nation communities and other small communities, where 21 percent of First Nation respondents suggested their treatment procedures or facilities were outdated or unsafe, versus seven percent of non-First Nation respondents.

There is a need for a longer-term strategy for water and wastewater issues that increases specific emphasis on recruitment, training and retention of system operators; and that is flexible in customising its approach to individual community needs. As discussed in Section 5. Interviewees, survey respondents and case study participants highlighted turnover due to more competitive wages being offered by non-First Nation communities as one of the central reasons, as well as being able to afford, acquire, train and retain backup operators - all cited as major limitations facing First Nation operators in minimising risk.

Importantly, however, several case study and interview participants noted the need for flexibility and customisation of approach. For example, there may be instances where a community's size and ability to acquire the capacity for water and wastewater management would implicate the need for contracting out services as opposed to building local capacity, and it was said that AANDC practices should be flexible and support this approach where appropriate.

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The Report of the Walkerton Inquiry had made a similar recommendation regarding special cases, and specifically First Nations, in that variances from regulatory standards should be allowed, but only where the owner demonstrates that safety will not be compromised, and never for cost purposes alone. The available evidence in this evaluation emphasises the need to match investments in capital facilities with investments in local recruiting and training for long-term success.

There are significant risks in investing in complex and expensive equipment where it is well-known that there is a high unemployment rate or a low likelihood of being able to recruit operators. It has been said that it would be better to have limited infrastructure with a highly competent operator than the best infrastructure with an inadequate operator, Footnote 30 and there was sentiment among interview participants that the FNWWAP focuses more attention on the infrastructure projects without adequate attention to the needs for sufficient numbers of qualified operators.

Case study and survey participants noted that communities are limited in their ability to attract qualified staff and have them sufficiently certified, at least partially because of a lack of available individuals having completed high school, and thus, this is a key limitation when resourcing a community for water system operators. Case study participants also discussed the need for incentives to attract or retain operators, such as housing funding, and the funds to allow for a full-time backup operator.

Additionally, whereas AANDC normally promotes the use of decentralised systems, there may be instances where centralised systems are more efficient, and it was recognised by key informants that AANDC could be more cognizant of and flexible toward water system needs. It was also noted that better communication was required around specifying such needs. For example, where certain types of systems are optimal, AANDC could improve its communications as to why, in order to build better trust and understanding among First Nation water system operators and managers.

The protocols for the management of water and wastewater systems are said to be useful when understood and applied, but difficult to enforce and there is evidence that they are not as well known as would be expected for a program of such high risk. Only 39 percent of system operators surveyed were generally or completely familiar with the "Protocol for the Centralised Drinking Water Systems in First Nation Communities.

Only 31 percent were generally or very familiar with the "Protocol for Centralised Wastewater Systems in First Nation Communities", with 21 percent saying they were somewhat familiar, and 48 percent saying they were unfamiliar with it. Only 24 percent were familiar with the "Protocol for Decentralised Water and Wastewater Systems in First Nation Communities", with 20 percent saying they were somewhat familiar, and 55 percent saying they were unfamiliar. Knowledge of each of these protocols was highly intercorrelated.

There is little recourse for not meeting standards or protocols, although it was widely acknowledged among interviewees that the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act is the first step to addressing this issue. It was emphasised that the success of water systems stemming from the development of clear regulations would depend on the Government of Canada matching capital investments to the degree of upgrades required to meet regulations; on First Nation readiness for devolution of authorities related to water and wastewater activities where applicable; and on a very clear articulation of responsibilities between Health Canada, AANDC and First Nations.

Finally, as discussed in Section 4. Considering the amount of additional infrastructure projects that can be expected in the future, the limitations in having qualified operators, and the relatively slow pace of improvement that can be expected with such limitations, a longer-term strategy may be needed. Specifically, it is difficult for both the Government and First Nations to dedicate to long-term and sustainable approaches to safe water and wastewater management if funding is variable, short-term and unpredictable.

While measures of reductions in health risks are covered by Health Canada activities and measures for system risk and capacity have been operationalised at AANDC , measures of increased confidence and comparability with other Canadian municipalities have not been articulated or operationalised. Issues specific to water and wastewater within this performance measurement strategy primarily relate to risk levels and communities meeting the standards outlined in each of the protocols.

Additionally, while a key outcome is that systems meet federal standards, measurement has not been articulated or systematised, and there are questions regarding the utility of measuring against standards that are not part of any regulatory framework. Regarding the latter point, regulations stemming from the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act should poise AANDC , in consultation with Health Canada and First Nations, to develop clear performance measures against the standards to be set in these upcoming regulations. The assessments of the capacity are assessed via the Annual Performance Inspection's measure of the certification of the system operator.

As mentioned in Section 5. This means that in order to assess capacity, AANDC needs to assess the extent to which communities can set priorities; develop short- and long-term strategies; acquire human resources where necessary including procurement ; manage their assets; and ultimately be accountable for system maintenance, risk and performance. In other words, in addition to supporting operator capacity, capacity support from the Department should also include support to community managers and decision makers. Finally, as mentioned above, survey respondents cited capacity issues as more of a product of insufficient numbers of operators, rather than the presence of a certified operator.

Risk is also measured via AANDC 's Annual Performance Inspections, which examine specific elements of water or wastewater systems, including water source or effluent receivers for wastewater systems ; system design; system operation and maintenance; operator training and certification; and record keeping and reporting. Each element is then assigned a risk score categorized as low 1. It is important to note that these risk numbers are only a measure of the overall system management risk and not a measure of water safety or quality.

In other words, they reflect the risk that, in the event of a problem, a system would fail to produce safe water. According to AANDC guidelines, deficiencies in high risk systems could result in advisories against drinking the water such as drinking water advisories or inadequate water supplies. Once systems are classified under this category, regions and First Nations then take immediate corrective action to minimize or eliminate deficiencies.

The overall risk for a system is also ranked using the same categories and scale. However, an overall system rank is not an average of the scores from the five categories; rather it is calculated using a weighted value for each category as follows:. The increases in drinking water advisories shown in the National Assessment have been interpreted by some interviewees as a sign of improved capacity for detecting, and taking steps to reduce, risks to health and safety.

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Critically, however, from a risk reduction point of view, this is only half of the equation, as frequent or long-lasting boil water advisories are reflective of significant problems with infrastructure, maintenance, or source water. Therefore, while a first step may be ensuring the ability to identify risk to address immediate health concerns — and this has been well captured by Health Canada through drinking water advisories — equal consideration should be given to the assessment of risk from a source water and infrastructure quality and sustainability point of view, which incidentally is how this outcome is stated.

The assessment of risk as discussed above appears to be able to address this sort of risk. Additionally, Asset Condition Reporting System inspections are completed every three years, which report on the system structure conditions. While there are proxy measures for confidence in drinking water systems largely based on public opinion research, if the AANDC and Health Canada continue to consider confidence in drinking water systems as a necessary indicator, it is necessary to plan for systematic measurement.

Importantly, however, it is essential to develop indicators of confidence that truly reflect anxieties about the safety and quality of the drinking water, and to be cautious about what could be confounding variables such as taste and a general tendency in the population to prefer bottled water. Related to confidence is the reduction in risks. As discussed above, risk reduction as measured through boil water advisories may actually have the reverse effect on confidence, given that the public may often associate boil water advisories with increased risk and poor quality.

One of the best ways to avoid confounding confidence with other variables is to measure it against the frequency of advisories or other issues over time. This should give an adequate portrayal of the degree to which confidence is associated with perceived risks. Table 4 below compares the "current" as of May 7, raw numbers of DWA s by region between on- and off-reserve communities.