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  • James Howey

Community Awareness and Drinking Water

I was just reading this news piece - Hawke's Bay communities label chlorination 'overreaction'.

More than 5,000 people in Havelock North (nearby Hawke's Bay), NZ fell ill after their water supply became contaminated in August 2016. The government inquiry into that outbreak recommended all drinking water should be treated. And now a Hawke's Bay community says the local council's decision to chlorinate their water is an overreaction to the Havelock water crisis!

This just got me thinking about how we involve communities in drinking water quality issues and decision making, and should we be more proactive. I know it’s not always an easy thing to do. I’ve worked in a few rural communities in Pacific island developing countries. We ran a training workshop one time on using a small amount (calculated) of ‘bleach’ to treat drinking water collected from roof rainwater runoff. Some of the community members saw it as adding poison to their ‘high quality’ tank water. We overcame that over time, but that's for another day, if you’re interested.

The point I guess is that we need to get the community on our side or make an effort to, for water quality risk management and improvements. Utilities/councils can play a big role in this. Element 8 of the Framework for Management of Drinking Water Quality in the ADWG captures this aspect.

Also, if you look at the SDGs: Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation - Target 6.b is on Stakeholder Participation (support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management), and is very fitting to this topic. The success of the other SDG6 targets is dependent on community participation and acceptance.

It’s always going to need a fine balance (and foremost protection of public health), but recognising the need for community awareness and involvement is a good start!

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