August 2-9, 2004

Second Sask drinking water quality report shows steady improvements

An examination of Saskatchewan's drinking water shows significant progress over the past year with regard to drinking water quality, waterworks infrastructure, source water protection, and other relevant issues. The second Annual Report on the State of Drinking Water Quality in Saskatchewan also incorporates reporting on the implementation of Saskatchewan's Safe Drinking Water Strategy, introduced in April 2002.

The 2003-04 report cites a number of achievements, including:

-significant improvements in drinking water quality results from communities;

-development of source water protection plans for six watersheds, which began during the past year;

-the launch of the SaskH2O Web site last year to provide community-specific, up-to-date drinking water quality information; and

-the accreditation of two additional laboratories by the Standards Council of Canada for analyses of drinking water samples (bringing to four the number of accredited laboratories in Saskatchewan).

Compliance with bacteriological water quality standards has steadily improved over the past three years, rising 1.7% from 84.6% in 2002-03 to 86.3% for 2003-04. Compliance with the disinfection standard has risen from 68.7% in 2002-03 to 84% in 2003-04.

In 2003-04, there were 25 waterworks which did not meet Saskatchewan Environment's minimum treatment requirements; this is down 14% from the previous year, when 29 facilities failed to meet the requirements. The department issued 76 permits to construct, upgrade or alter waterworks, and conducted 785 waterworks inspections.

During the fiscal year, 107 precautionary drinking water advisories (DWAs) and 16 emergency boil water orders (BWOs) were issued for waterworks regulated by Saskatchewan Environment. By the end of the fiscal year (March 31, 2004), 72 DWAs and three BWOs were still in effect.

Additional enforcement activities were completed during the reporting period. The department finalized and implemented a drinking water and wastewater enforcement protocol and issued 45 written and 3,534 verbal warnings in relation to inspections. A sewage works inspection protocol was developed as well, with 311 inspections carried out by department personnel.

In addition, the report notes that the federal-provincial Canada-Saskatchewan Infrastructure Program (CSIP) invested a total of $13.5 million in 33 water and wastewater projects approved in 2003-04, as well as 45 multi-year projects approved in prior years. SaskWater managed 26 water and sewer construction projects worth $5.8 million in 20 northern communities and provided technical assistance and training for 100 operators on 60 First Nations and in four northern communities. There are now 582 certified operators at waterworks regulated by Saskatchewan Environment.

As part of its source water protection program, Saskatchewan Environment compiled and reviewed information on 526 wastewater discharges to determine their potential impacts on source water. Approximately 93 wastewater systems were found to be of potential concern as sources of adverse impacts on source water quality and the aquatic environment. The department will be conducting further inspection and assessment of these systems, and will undertake discussions with sewage works owners as well as compliance actions to work toward resolving concerns with wastewater discharges.

The report may be viewed on-line at www.saskh20.ca/ under News. More information is also available from Len Sinclair at Saskatchewan

Environment in Prince Albert, 306/953-2296, or Dr Terry Hanley, watershed monitoring and assessment director for the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, 306/787-9982.

In related developments, water sampling on the North Saskatchewan River shows that the water meets

Saskatchewan's surface water quality objectives. There was also no evidence of hydrocarbons. The results mean that the water quality of the river is safe for recreational use.

Saskatchewan Environment and the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority took the samples during the third week of July after heavy rains in the Edmonton area resulted in combined raw sewage as well as hydrocarbons being released into the river.

"The results confirm that the water quality of the North Saskatchewan River meets all of our water quality objectives following the storm in Edmonton," said Chuck Bosgoed, Saskatchewan Environment's environmental sciences unit manager. "Daily observation and increased sampling by both agencies was conducted in the last week to provide the public absolute confidence that the river was safe for public use."

"When an incident happens that threatens the water supply, monitoring to understand the threat is an essential step in protecting the public. In this case, monitoring shows that no further action is needed," said the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority's Dr Hanley.

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