Step up drinking water safety monitoring and enforcement, auditor general tells Manitoba government

The provincial government needs to do more to ensure a safe drinking water supply in Manitoba, a new auditor general’s report says.

The Provincial Oversight of Drinking Water Safety: Independent Audit Report says 20 per cent of known Manitoba water systems don’t have an operating licence, and half don’t have a certified operator.

It also says the number of licensed water systems in the province doubled over the last five years, but the number of staff to monitor these systems decreased. 

“While Manitoba has not had any major outbreaks of water-borne diseases recently, the department needs to remain vigilant and do more to minimize the risk of problems in the future,” Auditor General Tyson Shtykalo said in a statement.

The Department of Conservation and Climate doesn’t have adequate processes to address safety risks when licensing and monitoring drinking water systems, the report says. 

It also has “weak” strategic planning and performance measurement processes for overseeing drinking water safety, the report says.

“Although many of these systems were very small, it is important that all water systems, no matter the size, have an operator who has received appropriate training and understands the system and safety requirements,” Shtykalo said.

The report makes 18 recommendations, including revising safety regulations and stepping up enforcement, as well as developing new systems to monitor water systems and follow up on any issues.

The province says many of the recommendations are already being implemented.

In some cases, such as the auditor’s recommendation that the department train and support water system operators in small First Nations communities, the province says it agrees “in principle” but jurisdictional issues need to be resolved.

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