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A New Baseline for Water Infrastructure Risk in Canada

By Katherine Balpataky 08:10AM April 11, 2018

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The Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, Public Safety Canada, and Dalhousie University released a study yesterday assessing the risks and level of preparedness to water security in Canada.

Entitled, Strengthening the Resilience of the Canadian Water Sector, the report examines physical threats to water security, including water quality, water quantity, and cyber safety as well as the interdependencies between the water sector and other critical infrastructure sectors in Canada (e.g., drinking, sanitation, agriculture, industry, generating hydroelectric power, cooling nuclear reactors, and recreation).

With funding from the Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) through the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP), the study employed quantitative and qualitative research methods to examine perceptions of risk across Canada and the state of preparedness of the water sector.

Adrian Toth, director of government relations for CWWA who was the project leader and coordinator of the project said, “To date, no such report has been created to assess the resilience in the water sector nationwide. A unified and collaborative tool such as a National Risk Profile was needed as a catalyst to move the water sector, as a whole, forward to becoming more secure and resilient.”

Through surveys of water providers, the report identified the top risks to water security based on likelihood and severity of the risk are (in order):
1) aging infrastructure,
2) severe storms,
3) loss of power,
4) contamination of source water (including reservoirs),
5) chemical release/spill, and
6) Unauthorised access to premises.

“The data collected through the National Survey of the Water Sector helped to create the National Risk Profile that can be used collaboratively by CWWA and Public Safety Canada (PSC),” said Toth.

The purpose was to identify policies and practices water utilities can adopt in the short- and medium-term to ensure a safer, more secure and resilient water supply to Canadians.

“It has become increasingly apparent that water security management needs to develop in new directions to address emerging threats. Several management approaches are currently shaping water security practices, including ecosystem-based management, integrated management, and adaptive management,” stated the report. “A variety of regulatory frameworks also influence—or, at least, are meant to influence—water security practices, including the ISO Risk Management Principles and Guidelines, the Water Security Risk Assessment Framework, and the Water Security Status Indicator Framework.”

The authors noted that the report does address issues relating to Indigenous water security or safety, particular
access to drinking water and wastewater sanitation on First Nations reserves.

The full report is available online.

Water Canada will feature an in-depth feature on the framing of risk the authors used in the May/June print edition.

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