In 2013 we conducted the first comprehensive review and evaluation of the uptake and application of Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines (CDWQG) across Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. We found the CDWQG are used in a variety of different ways across Canadian jurisdictions: either in their entirety or partially, as guidelines or legally binding standards
- Only 16 of the 94 CDWQG are consistently applied across all 13 jurisdictions
- 127 unique drinking water parameters being used across the 13 Canadian provinces and territories (94 of which are the CDWQG)
- There is substantial variation in the strength of governance approaches, notably the distinction between mandatory and voluntary guidelines, with only eight of the 13 provinces and territories having legally binding drinking water standards.
The inventory of drinking water quality parameters used in the 13 Canadian provinces and territories is available to download here. This research has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) special issue: Access, Health, Regulations, and Policy: Exploring Rural and Remote Drinking Water Supplies in North America.
Dunn, G., Bakker, K. and Harris, L. (2014). Drinking water quality guidelines across Canadian provinces and territories: Jurisdictional variation in the context of decentralized water governance. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11(5), 4634-4651; doi:10.3390/ijerph110504634
Abstract: This article presents the first comprehensive review and analysis of the uptake of the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines (CDWQG) across Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. This review is significant given that Canada’s approach to drinking water governance is: (i) highly decentralized and (ii) discretionary. Canada is (along with Australia) only one of two Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states that does not comply with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation that all countries have national, legally binding drinking water quality standards. Our review identifies key differences in the regulatory approaches to drinking water quality across Canada’s 13 jurisdictions. Only 16 of the 94 CDWQG are consistently applied across all 13 jurisdictions; five jurisdictions use voluntary guidelines, whereas eight use mandatory standards. The analysis explores three questions of central importance for water managers and public health officials: (i) should standards be uniform or variable; (ii) should compliance be voluntary or legally binding; and (iii) should regulation and oversight be harmonized or delegated? We conclude with recommendations for further research, with particular reference to the relevance of our findings given the high degree of variability in drinking water management and oversight capacity between urban and rural areas in Canada.