Health Minister Terry Lake today announced $500,000 in funding for the B.C. Water and Waste Association (BCWWA) to help communities address small water systems challenges. The Ministry and the Association will work together to administer the funds to communities that rely on small water systems with the ultimate goal of reducing health risks and boil water advisories across the province.
The announcement is part of the province’s efforts to respond to the results of an internal study on provincial water systems and recommendations from the Union of B.C. Municipalities. There are approximately 4,500 water systems in B.C. and the vast majority are considered to be small operations. A 2015 BCWWA report, it was estimate that at least $13 billion of additional investment will be required to renew and replace water and wastewater infrastructure in B.C.
“Small water systems are estimated to serve about 40,000 people in B.C., mostly in non-urban areas,” said David Main, President of the B.C. Water & Waste Association. “Concerns have been raised by government policy makers and water sector professionals that the health of small water system users may be at risk. This risk is due to the system owners’ capacity to effectively manage operations and finances, a lack of financial resources to invest in needed infrastructure, and challenges related to stewardship and governance,” he said.
The BCWWA will provide small water system owners in target communities with educational workshops, webinars and one-on-one coaching to educate them about regulatory responsibilities and risk factors so that they support adopting sustainable financial and operational management practices. The Association will also target the small water system users in these communities to build public understanding and support for sustainable rate structures that cover the full-cost of operation, upgrades, and replacement of system infrastructure. To maximize the funding impact, the pilot project will target 10 regional areas and up to 40 small water systems.
“This pilot project will establish a structure to deliver relevant information and resources to help ensure that small water systems owners have the capacity to deliver clean, safe water services now and for future generations,” said Main.
“These systems are critical to the health and wellbeing of British Columbians living in rural and remote communities and this funding will support the training needed to make sure the proper safeguards are in place now and in the long-term,” said Health Minister Terry Lake.