Call for Members: Source Water Protection Web Platform Working Group, Alberta Water Council

Position: 
NGO Sector Member
Initiative: 
Source Water Protection Web Platform Working Group
Application Deadline: 
4 Sep 2020
Background: 

Albertans’ quality of life depends on a healthy, secure, and sustainable water supply for communities, the environment, and the economy. Population growth, development, and climate variability continue to stress water supplies and the health and well-being of Albertans, the economy, and aquatic ecosystems. Source water is untreated, raw water from surface or groundwater sources used for drinking water or other uses. Source Water Protection (SWP) is a risk management process designed to maintain or improve the conditions of water through proactive and collaborative identification, validation, assessment, and management of risk.

In 2018, the Alberta Water Council (AWC) kicked off a project team to provide guidance on “Protecting Sources of Drinking Water in Alberta”.  The project surveyed public and private water systems and assessed SWP practices, processes, risks, and initiatives in Alberta.  A jurisdictional scan was completed to examine SWP approaches in selected areas of North America and Australia. A resulting “Protecting Sources of Drinking Water in Alberta” guide stipulated steps for drinking water providers to take when undertaking SWP planning.

The results of this project indicate a lack of awareness, data, tools, training, funding, and expertise as well as the need for a more collaborative approach between stakeholders in Alberta.  Several concerns over perceived risks to drinking water sources were identified including risks from extreme weather (e.g. floods, drought), development pressures, stormwater, algal blooms, industry, recreation, and livestock.   

Although Drinking Water Safety Plans (DWSPs) are mandatory for municipalities in Alberta, they often lack the attention and detail needed to effectively assess and mitigate risks to drinking water sources.  For example, the DWSPs are often lacking information and validation of potential contamination of drinking water sources from adjacent land use activities and operations.  The guide to “Protecting Sources of Drinking Water in Alberta” developed by the previous project team is a first step in providing direction for drinking water providers on SWP planning.  Several communities have voluntarily developed SWP plans, while several tools exist in Alberta to support SWP, but there is no centralized inventory of these tools online. Furthermore, most municipalities and non-municipal drinking water providers in Alberta do not have the tools or resources in-house to do SWP on their own, particularly small and rural communities. Without further collaboration and the development of SWP tools and resources, SWP efforts will continue to be ad hoc, and lack the consistency required to manage source water risks into the future.  

There is a need to develop and deliver a suite of practical tools and resources to assist drinking water providers and local decision makers in Alberta to understand, assess, and mitigate risks to their drinking water sources. Additionally, there is a need to integrate SWP approaches and encourage greater collaboration between drinking water providers and stakeholders through the development of SWP plans that align with local priorities, watershed management initiatives, and regional plans. 

The Statement of Opportunity (SoO) was initially presented at the AWC’s February 2020 board meeting. After several discussions, members were concerned that project scope and client were unclear. Members cautioned that current capacity constraints being encountered by some sectors need to be considered when developing and rolling out this toolkit. There was consensus to strike an ad hoc group to further flesh out these concerns and bring back a revised SoO for the board to consider. 

The ad hoc group was established and met once remotely to discuss the concerns of the board and determine a path forward to revise the SoO. Instead of a toolkit, the group suggested the development and delivery of a SWP web platform. It was proposed that the work could be broken down into two phases: assessment and implementation. The assessment phase would compile and deliver the resources (data and information) required for SWP planning on a centralized web platform including information on 1) delineation of source water areas, 2) available data and information on training on risk assessment, and 3) training to assess source water risks. The implementation phase would focus on how to act on the identified risks through mitigation measures and collaborative partnerships.

At the June AWC board meeting, the revised SoO was presented and there was consensus from members to launch a working group for scoping terms of reference (ToR) for a project team to execute. The draft ToR will be brought forward for approval by the AWC board at a future meeting.

Description:

  • Source water protection (SWP) is the proactive mitigation of risks and impacts to water (surface water and groundwater) supplies.  It is the first line of defence in a multi-barrier, risk management approach to protect drinking water from contamination and other risks.
  • However, most municipalities and non-municipal drinking water providers in Alberta do not have the tools or resources in-house to do SWP on their own, particularly small and rural communities.  Thus, without further collaboration and the development of SWP tools and resources, SWP efforts will continue to be ad hoc and lack the consistency needed to manage source water risks into the future.  
  • The main purpose of this work is to scope ToR for a project team to develop and deliver a centralized web platform that would house the resources necessary to support the development of voluntary SWP plans.
  • This project will develop and deliver a suite of practical tools and resources to assist drinking water providers and local decision makers in Alberta to understand, assess and mitigate risks to their drinking water sources.  Additionally, the project will integrate SWP approaches and encourage greater collaboration between drinking water providers and stakeholders through the development of SWP plans that align with local priorities, watershed management initiatives and regional plans.

Working Group Membership, Expectations, and Commitment

Description:

  • Source water protection (SWP) is the proactive mitigation of risks and impacts to water (surface water and groundwater) supplies.  It is the first line of defence in a multi-barrier, risk management approach to protect drinking water from contamination and other risks.
  • However, most municipalities and non-municipal drinking water providers in Alberta do not have the tools or resources in-house to do SWP on their own, particularly small and rural communities.  Thus, without further collaboration and the development of SWP tools and resources, SWP efforts will continue to be ad hoc and lack the consistency needed to manage source water risks into the future.  
  • The main purpose of this work is to scope ToR for a project team to develop and deliver a centralized web platform that would house the resources necessary to support the development of voluntary SWP plans.
  • This project will develop and deliver a suite of practical tools and resources to assist drinking water providers and local decision makers in Alberta to understand, assess and mitigate risks to their drinking water sources.  Additionally, the project will integrate SWP approaches and encourage greater collaboration between drinking water providers and stakeholders through the development of SWP plans that align with local priorities, watershed management initiatives and regional plans.

Membership:

  • Representative of a sector with an interest in this issue (deal makers, deal breakers, implementers).
  • AWC Director, Alternate, or another sector representative.
  • Meet the expectations and commitments described below, as per the AWC’s Process Guidelines.
  • Two representatives from each of the AWC’s sector groups: Industry, Non-government Organizations, Government, and the GoA and provincial authorities. 

Expectations of Representative:

  • Represent an organization or sector.
  • Come prepared for meetings, (i.e., reading pre-meeting material, completing homework assignments and being able to negotiate on behalf of their sector).
  • Make constructive contributions that advance the committee’s goals and objectives and help others to do the same.
  • Report regularly to their sector.
  • Brief their sector’s Director and Alternate regularly, including prior to the team’s report and recommendations being presented to the Board.
  • As appropriate, participate in briefing Directors and Alternates in their broad category.
  • Liaise with their sector’s participants on the Board and other AWC teams to maximize synergy, ensure coordination, and prevent duplication.
  • Follow the rules and principles of consensus decision making.

Commitment:

  • Approximately four months.
  • Two to three full-day meetings, with some hours required between meetings to review materials (e.g. draft ToR).
Application Instructions: 

Please submit your expression of interest to [email protected] by September 3, 2020.