Drinking water advisories are preventive measures that protect people from drinking water that could be contaminated. In First Nation communities, a drinking water advisory can affect as little as one building and does not always represent a community-wide drinking water problem since communities can have multiple water systems.
Drinking water advisories can be required due to problems in the water system, such as line breaks, equipment failure and poor filtration or disinfection during water treatment. An advisory might also be needed as a precautionary measure – for example, during emergency repairs to the water distribution system or if a community lacks the required staff to support operation. Some problems can be fixed with routine maintenance procedures. Other issues, such as infrastructure improvements, can require initiating an infrastructure investment project to funding agencies such as Indigenous Services Canada.
FNHA's Environmental Public Health Services (EPHS) provides advice to communities on drinking water safety, including recommendations on when a drinking water advisory is warranted. It is the responsibility of Chief and Council to implement an advisory and take the necessary measures to rectify the problems which led to the advisory. Once remedial measures are completed, EPHS supports communities by verifying that the drinking water is once again safe and is protected from potential future problems.
Types of Drinking Water Advisories include:
Water Quality Advisory (WQA): Issued when there is some level of risk associated with water use, but the circumstances do not warrant a Boil Water Advisory, Do Not Consume or Do Not Use. A WQA can be for the general population or targeted to people who may be at higher risk. Advice to minimize the risk associated will vary and will be specified.
Boil Water Advisory (BWA): Issued as a preventive measure when the water in a community's water system is known or suspected to have disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites that can cause waterborne illness; or when water quality is questionable and boiling will remove the contaminant from the water.
Do Not Consume (DNC): Issued when a community's water system contains a contaminant, such as a chemical, that cannot be removed from the water by boiling. The water should not be used for: drinking; brushing teeth; cooking; washing fruits and vegetables; making infant formula or other drinks, soups or ice cubes; for bathing infants and toddlers; or for pets. It may continue to be used for domestic purposes such as showering and bathing.
Do Not Use (DNU): Issued when the water system contains contamination that cannot be removed by boiling and consumption of the water poses a health risk; exposure to the water when bathing could cause skin, eye or nose irritation.
FNHA currently monitors 285 community water systems with 5 or more connections and 49 public water systems that may have fewer than 5 connections and include public facilities. This is across 193 First Nations in British Columbia.
During 2018, 6 long-term (lasting longer than a year) boil water advisories were lifted.
During 2017, 7 long term (lasting longer than a year) were lifted (6 boil water and 1 do not consume advisory).
During 2016, 7 long-term (lasting longer than a year) boil water advisories were lifted.
During 2015, 11 long-term (lasting longer than a year) were lifted (10 boil water advisories and one long-term do not consume advisory).
Information on drinking water advisories in community water systems is updated on the website on a monthly basis and shows DWAs that were in effect on the specified date. This information is not intended to be used for public health messaging. First Nations community members can obtain the most up-to-date information on their drinking water through their Chief and Council, or their local FNHA EHO.
External and media inquiries can be directed to FNHA Media Relations.
Water systems with 5 or more connections (CWS), and smaller water systems that have public facilities (PWS). Systems on leased land are not included.
Summary: As of May 31, 2021, there were 5 Water Quality Advisories, 6 Boil Water Advisories and 7 Do Not Consume advisories for a total of 18 Drinking Water Advisories in effect in 18 Water Systems across 16 First Nation communities in British Columbia. This includes water systems with 5 or more connections (CWS) and smaller water systems that have public facilities (PWS).
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