Creating Viable Water Systems: Emerging Best Practices in Governance

Elizabeth Brubaker
March 31, 2006

Report prepared for Indian and Nothern Affairs Canada

Table of Contents
Introduction
The Evolution of the Ontario Clearn Water Agency
The Certification of Municipal Operators
The Consolidation of Municipal Water Services
The Private Financing and Operation of Municipal Water Utilities
Making Water Utilities Financially Sustainable: Full Cost Accounting and User Pay
Strengthening the Regulation of Water Utilities
Future Directions
Private financing and service delivery
Economic Regulation
Lessons Learned


Introduction
Last fall’s crisis in Kashechewan shone a spotlight on water problems in aboriginal communities. It focused public and political attention on long-standing inadequacies in infrastructure, performance, and regulation. It highlighted widespread failures to create functioning water systems (despite substantial investments,) to train operators, and to hold accountable those responsible for poor performance.
The water problems plaguing aboriginal communities are different in scope but not in kind from those long experienced by non-native communities. For decades, many non-native communities-especially smaller, rural communities-received water provided by ill-trained staff operating inadequate systems. In 2000, the Walkerton tragedy called attention to the dangerous state of water in almost 1,000 communities across Canada. In the following months, 246 boil-water advisories were issued in Ontario alone.
The severity of Ontario’s problems had been apparent since 1992, when a report by the Ministry of Environment and Energy revealed that fewer than half of the water plants assessed complied with provincial policies or objectives. The problems persisted throughout the decade. In 2000, inspections revealed deficiencies in sampling, maintenance, training or performance at 367 of Ontario’s 659 water treatment plants.
Reforms intended to address these problems began in the early 1990s and accelerated after the Walkerton tragedy.   Although implemented by successive provincial governments headed by three different political parties, the reforms largely moved in the same direction. All were intended to enhance the independence, viability, and accountability of water utilities. They generally encouraged larger, professionally operated, and sustainably financed systems. Concurrently, the province refocused its own responsibilities, moving away from financing, owning, and operating water utilities and towards regulating them more effectively.

This study will examine these reforms to the governance of water systems, assess their effectiveness, consider factors determining their success or failure, identify emerging solutions to lingering problems, and draw lessons that may help solve some of the problems now plaguing aboriginal water systems.

Click here to view entire report in PDF form

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One thought on “Creating Viable Water Systems: Emerging Best Practices in Governance

  1. Pingback: Water: The slow, steady fight for regulatory reform | Environment Probe

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