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Press Release 
Jo Burgess 

Water safety plans bringing an assurance of drinking water quality

The Water Research Commission has completed yet another study that aims to meet the water quality requirements of people in South Africa.  There has been exponential growth of small treatment plants in the country with many of these being situated in rural areas with limited technical support. “Management of these water supply systems has been very difficult and water service authorities have to rely on limited resources to ensure that the water supply meets the minimum standards in terms of quantity and quality” says Dr Jo Burgess, the WRC research manager responsible for the project. A generic Water Safety Plan (WSP) manual produced by the WRC will enable South African practitioners to meet the Department of Water Affairs’ and World Health Organization’s (WHO) requirements for WSPs. The WHO has proposed that WSPs be implemented for each country, which will ensure that a sustainable water supply system is implemented and managed thus minimizing the health risks to the consumer.

According to Dr Jo Burgess, WSPs aim to improve water quality assurance through a multi-barrier concept. The multiple barrier principle implies that actions are required at all stages in the process of producing and distributing water, in order to protect water quality. This includes source protection, treatment (when applied) through several different stages, prevention of contamination during distribution (piped or non-piped) and maintenance within households. The role of indicators is seen as primarily being a means of verification of the WSP in meeting water quality objectives, rather than as a routine tool for monitoring water quality.

A WSP provides an organized and structured system to minimize the chance of failure through oversight or management lapse. The process provides consistency with which safe water is supplied and provides contingency plans to respond to system failures or unforeseeable hazardous events. Water safety plans can be developed generically for small supplies rather than for individual supplies.

“With the use of WSPs the determination of whether the drinking water supply chain as a whole can deliver water of a quality that meets health-based targets will be achieved’  says Jo Burgess. “They also provide control measures in a drinking water system that will collectively control identified risks and ensure that health-based targets are met” she adds. Measures of operational monitoring, that ensure that deviation from the required performance is rapidly detected in a timely manner have been included. Management plans describing actions taken during normal operation or incident conditions and documenting the system assessment (including upgrade and improvement), monitoring and communication plans and supporting programmes also form part of the WSPs.  They aim to provide guidance on both day-to-day actions and long term planning, collectively ensure the provision of safe water, and aid system managers and operators in gaining a better understanding of the water supply system and the risks that need to be managed. A comprehensive checklist has also been included to ensure the proper use and maintenance of a WSP.

Copies of the WSP manual can be obtained by contacting WRC publications (012 330 9016 or orders@wrc.org.za and requesting a copy of report number TT415/09).

Compiled by: Hlengiwe Cele

Knowledge Dissemination Officer

Tel: +27 12 330 9006


For further details contact:

Dr Jo Burgess (Research Manager KSA 3)

Tel: 012 330 9039

Email: job@wrc.org.za

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