Does the Remoteness or Size of a Utility affect its ability to Provide Safe Drinking Water? - Presen
This year Viridis had the opportunity to present a poster on the barriers regional and/or remote water service providers (WSPs) may face in implementing their drinking water quality management plans (DWQMPs) at Ozwater 2018, the Australian Water Associations Annual International Water Conference (www.awa.asn.au).
The degree of implementation of DWQMPs was tallied using anonymised regulatory audit data from Queensland WSPs Viridis audited. Permission was sought from WSPs before data was analysis.
Audit grades of compliant, minor non-compliance and major non-compliance are attributed to 11 distinct elements per the Queensland DWQMP regulatory audit guidelines. Non-compliant grades are given with recommendations, from which a root cause of of non-compliance was extracted to classify the audit results for comparison across WSPs. WSP statistics were used to identify correlations between audit outcomes, population size served, size of utility (categorised into small, medium, large) and remoteness.
Medium sized councils (>1000 connections but <25,000 connections) had the highest average number of non-compliances. This is likely due to medium sized WSPs managing greater risks than small WSP, but not having the resources of large WSPs. Medium-sized WSPs may have multiple schemes, with a range of complexities but don't have the capacity to have dedicated resources in areas such as water quality management and process engineering.
When this was looked at more closely there was a correlation, albeit fairly weak, between the number of non-compliances and the size of a WSPs, i.e. the smaller a WSP, the more likely they were to have non-compliances in their regulatory audit.
The overall most common non-compliance categories were implementation of critical control points and documentation.
A surprising finding was that remoteness did not exhibit a trend in the level of compliance. There were two thoughts on why this might be the case.
Remoteness is based on the proximity to a major centre. Inherently areas close to major centres are more densely populated and therefore small WSP are mostly remote, mediums less remote and large WSP cannot be classed as remote.
Remote WSP tend to have a core of staff that are long term employees and have a close connection with the community.
There is a noticeable trend in the size of a WSP and the level of compliance with their DWQMP. This is thought to be due to the ability of the WSP to employ dedicated specialist resources and get the benefits of economies of scale that larger WSP enjoy. A number of WSP in Queensland are trying to address this issue through collaborating. The LGAQ has identified this issue and runs the QWRAP program.
As DWQMPs and their regulatory audits mature we expect the number of non-compliances to reduce. We hope to continue to add to this study and with a greater sample size provide increased insight.
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