Planning for Community Water Suppliers

It is good practice for community water suppliers to complete plans covering various aspects of their operation. These plans provide the context within which certain programs, including the WaterBC.ca programs described on this web site, may be implemented.

Use the links below to learn more about these plans and their application in your community water supply system:

Asset Management Plan Customer Communications Plan
Drought Management Plan Emergency Response Plan
Financial Plan Operating & Maintenance Plan
Risk Management Plan Staff Training plan
Strategic Plan Water Quality Protection Plan
Water Conservation Plan  

Asset Management Plan

All Water Supply Systems (WSS) should have an Asset Management Plan (AMP) in place. In its simplest form this plan is a concise inventory of the assets owned and used by the WSS. It shows the approximate age and condition of each item. It may provide additional details, such as the year the item was installed and its specification. The AMP should show the remaining useful life of the item, the year it will be replaced, and the estimated cost of replacement. This information can be used for several purposes, for example during the preparation of cash flow forecasts, in the management of maintenance and capital reserve funds and in long-term financial planning and rate setting.

Download this Asset Inventory Guidebook which can assist in the development of an Asset Inventory and Management Plan. A list of organizations providing assistance with Asset Management Plans is provided in the WaterBC.ca Directory of Services

Customer Communications Plans

All Water Supply Systems should have a Customer Communications Plan (CCP) in place. In its simplest form this may be limited to the posting of regular notices on a community notice board, and the inclusion of information circulars with the billing. Some community water systems operate a web site which is used to provide information about the system. Meetings of the community may occur once or twice a year to consider matters of common interest. It is important to have means of providing urgent notification to customers if a water quality problem occurs. The mechanisms for rapid notification of customers should be part of the Emergency Response Plan.

Drought Management Plan

The drought management plan describes how the water supply system will cope with drought conditions. It is particularly important for water suppliers in areas of BC such as the Okanagan and Gulf islands to have drought management plans in place. Drought can threaten the quantity and quality of potable water supplies. It may severely limit the water available for domestic and commercial use, and greatly inhibit the fire fighting capabilities of water suppliers. Drought conditions may occur more frequently in some areas as a result of climate change: for example the depth of winter snow pack in some areas may decrease, which will reduce the runoff available during the spring. Major interruptions to the water supply system, for example a landslide near a creek intake, can disrupt supplies and produce conditions that are similar to a drought.

Water Conservation Plan

The water conservation plan is often associated with a drought management plan. It describes how the water supply system will manage the allocation of water. This is especially important in areas that are prone to drought. This document will cover such issues as water metering, data collection, demand forecasting, water use efficiency programs, water audits, accounting and loss control, pressure management, reuse, recycling, water use regulations, landscape efficiency, integrated resource management and more. The following documents can provide a guide to water conservation planning:

Emergency Response Plan

The BC Health Act requires all water suppliers to have an emergency response plan (ERP) to which they can refer in case of an emergency, and which might present a threat to the health of people drawing water from the system. The ERP will help ensure the safety of the customers using water from your system. Your ability to respond rapidly in the event of an emergency will help prevent unnecessary problems, and help protect consumers. The emergency response plan should include a list of all people and agencies that should be contacted in the event of an emergency. This includes system owners and operators, customers, repair people, alternative water suppliers, media representatives and government agencies. When preparing your emergency response plan, you should try to identify all potential emergency situations which could make the water unsafe, prevent the flow of water, or pose a health risk. Follow this link for a copy of the BC Ministry of Health “Emergency Response Planning for Small Waterworks Systems, 1994”

Financial Plan

The financial plan is one of the most important planning tools for community water supply organizations. The financial plan typically includes a projection of operating costs and revenues over a 3 or 5 year period. It also includes a projection of capital expenditures and expenditures required for replacement and renewal of infrastructure. The money for operating costs, infrastructure renewal and capital expenditures may come from different sources and be held in different accounts, and these matters should be outlined in the financial plan. The financial plan will include reference to the rate structure in use, and show changes in rates and taxes that may be required to accommodate future expenditures. The financial plan will be linked to other planning tools such as the asset management plan. It should also cover other important issues such as financial control systems and signing authorities.

Operating and Maintenance Plan

The operating and maintenance plan sets out the tasks which must be carried out in order to competently operate and maintain the water supply system. It typically includes task schedules which show the frequency at which task are to be carried out and the resources that will be used. The O&M plan will reference the operating and maintenance manuals which are be associated with specific systems and equipment. The plan should also outline the levels of experience and qualifications required of system operators. It is good practice to undertake preventive maintenance routines, under which maintenance of all equipment is carried out according to preset schedules.

Risk Management Plan

The risk management plan should identify all risks that are incurred by the water supply system. These include management and financial risk, as well as risks which threaten the physical infrastructure and the quality and quantity of water supplies. At the early stage of a risk management exercise, all possible risks to the system are identified. The risk may be allocated to various categories, such as financial risk, or risk to safety of supplies. The risks are each assessed according to their consequences and probability of occurrence. Once this assessment has been done the various mechanisms for managing the risks can be identified and implemented. In some instances, risks may be managed through insurance. In other instances, for example when managing risks to water quality, measures such as the multi barrier approach may be adopted.

Staff Training Plan

Changes in technology, regulations, health, safety and administrative procedures mean that all staff of community water supply systems require training from time to time. The health and safety of consumers is dependent on effective operation of the water supply system, and it is important that staff have the tools and knowledge to capably discharge their responsibilities. The health and safety of water system staff when carrying out their duties is also a matter of great importance; this should be covered through appropriate training resources. For small systems the extent of this training may be severely constrained by available budget. Even in these circumstances, access to certain forms of training is available on line. Certification of water system operators is available in BC through the Environmental Operators Certificate Program. The topics mentioned above should all be outlined in a concise staff training plan.

Strategic Plan

The strategic plan is a document which both outlines the long term direction of the water supply organization and covers important governance and management issues. Typically it includes the vision for the water supply system held by the owner or governing body, as well as the mission and key objectives. It may also include a statement of values. The strategic plan may be developed after a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) which is carried out in consultation with members of the governing body and staff. The strategic plan should include projections of population to be served, flow requirements, system expansion needs, and other elements which describe how the system may be in the future. It should cover financial, managerial and operational issues, and the strategies that will be employed to build capacity in these areas.

Water Quality Protection Plan

The water supply system should have a written plan in place which outlines the ways in which it will continue to protect water quality. Typically the water supplier may implement the multi barrier approach to protect supplies. This means that water quality will be protected at the source, whether groundwater or surface water, through the treatment process, within the storage and distribution system, and at the consumers tap. Various measures should be taken at each of these stages to ensure water quality is maintained. For example, the watershed may be monitored, filtration and disinfection equipment may be installed, and a cross connection control program implemented for the distribution network. All the measures to protect water quality should be outlined in a written plan which is updated at regular intervals.