Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Strengthening Legal Protection for Canada's Drinking Water


On 17 May 2010, FLOW - Forum for Leadership on Water released a report on strenghtening the legal protection for Canada's drinking water.

Some of the challenges highlighted by the report to justify improved protection for drinking water in Canada are:

- In April 2008, the Canadian Medical Association reported that there were 1,776 drinking water advisories in effect across Canada;

- On 30 April 2010, there were 116 First Nations communities across Canada under a Drinking Water Advisory;

- An estimated 20–40% of all rural wells in Canada have nitrate concentrations or coliform bacteria counts in excess of drinking water guidelines;

- Half of the Canadian jurisdictions lack mandatory testing for chemical contamination of drinking water and over half do not require advanced water treatment for surface water;

- Many of the parameters in the voluntary pan-Canadian drinking water guidelines are up to 1000 times weaker than at least one of the other corresponding European standards or Australian guidelines.

To address these fundamental problems, the Report makes the following recommendations:

1 - The federal government could replace the Canadian Guidelines for
Drinking Water Quality with a Safe Drinking Water Act that has health-based long term objectives and legally binding minimum national standards and regulations;

2 - The federal government should ensure the drinking water standards are at least equal to the highest standards in other industrialized nations;

3 - The federal government should take steps to provide resources and support for safe drinking water on federal lands and all First Nations reserves;

4 - Establish consistent standards and reporting mechanisms to increase transparency about drinking water and wastewater systems, notably through a publicly available annual report to Parliament.

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