What Are Water Safety Plans And How Are They Implemented?

What is a Water Safety Plan?

The ‘WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality’ recommend Water Safety Plans (WSPs) as the most effective way of ensuring that a water supply is consistently safe for human consumption. The WSP approach represents the World Health Organization’s response to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aims to achieve safe drinking-water for all.

WSPs are based on a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach to all the steps in a water supply chain. This process involves identifying where and how problems could arise, putting management systems in place to stop a problem before it happens, and making sure all parts of the system continue to function properly. WSPs are adaptable to all types and sizes of water supplies; they can be adjusted to meet local needs and limitations.

Why implement a Water Safety Plan?

Managing small and rural community water supplies is a concern worldwide. In the past small community water supplies have been at greater risk of breakdown and contamination, which can result in outbreaks of waterborne disease. The greatest risk to health is exposure to microbiological pathogens, such as cholera, which can have rapid adverse effects on health.

Safe water is essential for sustainable development of communities. Improving access to safe drinking water in rural communities will improve community health and in doing so opportunities for sustainable livelihoods can be enhanced, this can reduce poverty and encourage economic development. The WSP approach has a clear emphasis on prevention. It helps to identify, prioritise and manage risks that could threaten water supplies.

Key Components of a Water Safety Plan

Below we outline the key stages of implementing a Water Safety Plan:

Step 1: Engage the community and assemble a WSP team 

To successfully implement a WSP it is essential that the community, specifically community leaders and decision-makers, understand the benefits of the WSP approach. A WSP team must be formed, this team will be responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the plan. It is desirable for team members to have varying backgrounds; this can include those who are responsible for day to day operations of the water supply and those who have authority to make decisions about spending money, training and making changes to the water supply.

Step 2: Describe the community water supply 

A complete map and description of the entire water supply system needs to be created; an accurate description will be highly useful when completing later steps. The WSP team need to understand what systems are already in place, this can be done by drawing a map/flow diagram of the entire supply system. The drinking water supply is defined as everything from where the water is sourced to the point of supply to the consumer.

Examples of what might be included in the description include the source of the water, information relating to the storage of the water, information relating to the treatment of the water and uses and users of the water. This will help the WSP team to identify hazards and their potential impact on water safety.

Step 3: Identify and assess hazards, hazardous events, risks and existing control measures

This step is central to the WSP, the team is required to assess what could go wrong at what point in the water supply chain. A hazard is something that is known to cause harm, this includes harmful microbiological, chemical or physical elements of the water. The aim of this step is to distinguish between significant and less significant risks; the risk associated with each hazard is assessed based on the likelihood or frequency of it occurring, and the severity of the consequence of it occurring.

Existing control measures are measures that have already been put in place to prevent contamination, this could include fencing off animals from the water supply and disinfecting water.

Step 4: Develop and implement an incremental improvement plan 

Control measures must be designed to eliminate or minimise the significant risks identified in step 3.

A detailed action plan must be developed to describe how the risks will be addressed; this must include short-term measures for managing the risk until permanent measures can be put in place. Measures for managing hazards can include fixing anything that is broken, training operational staff, and installing physical infrastructure/treatment.

Step 5: Monitor control measures and verify the effectiveness of the WSP

The purpose of this step is to confirm that the water supply is operating as expected and that the WSP is protecting drinking water. There are two key parts of this step that are integral to the WSP: compliance monitoring and operational monitoring.

Compliance monitoring requires drinking water to be tested to confirm that it complies with water quality standards. Operational monitoring requires quick and easy measurements and observations by WSP team on a regular basis. This can include daily water testing for simple indicator parameters such as turbidity in raw water and chlorine residual in storage reservoirs.

Step 6: Document, review and improve all aspects of Water Safety Plan implementation

Management procedures should be documented to log the actions and procedures that are required during normal operating conditions, and what actions should be taken should a hazard occur.

The WSP team should periodically review the WSP to learn from experiences and to check whether it still reflects the needs of the situation. The review process is essential for the overall implementation of the WSP and it provides the basis for future assessments.

Additionally, it is important that the plan is reviewed and possibly modified following an incident. A post-incident review discusses the incident in detail and is likely to identify areas for improvement, and these should be included in a revised WSP.

Wagtech™, portable water quality laboratories

Palintest is proud to have a long and established partnership with the humanitarian and development sector, providing technologies which safeguard water for everyone, every day. With vast experience in global exporting, we work closely with our partners to help deliver our life-saving equipment to every corner of the globe.

As challenges in this sector continue to evolve, our Wagtech™ kits have been adapted to the growing needs of the WASH sector. Helping to improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) standards worldwide our Wagtech™ portable water quality laboratories enable simple and accessible testing anywhere.

We offer a range of kits to suit your requirements. Our kits can be used to test drinking water for emergency response purposes, with more advanced kits used for long term water quality monitoring. The Water Safety Kit contains instruments and visual test equipment for simple on-site testing of free, total and combined chlorine, pH and turbidity. These parameters are often tested in step 5 of Water Safety Plan to to validate that the control measures are working effectively. The WSK is available individually or as part of Wagtech™ Potatest Classic and the Wagtech™ Potatest Go.

For more information about our Wagtech™ range visit the product page or fill in the contact form below.

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