The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines note that assessment of the
drinking water supply system, including understanding its characteristics and
sources of hazard and risks, is an essential prerequisite for subsequent steps
in which effective strategies for prevention and control of hazards are planned
and implemented. A water supply system can be defined as anything from source
to endpoint – the components of this system depend on the type of water product
or service being delivered, the specific processes involved, the interested
parties in the supply chain and the required regulatory and formal
So, how well do you understand your water quality supply chain risks?
Who are your parties? What service or product do they supply you with or you to
them? What water quality supply chain requirements have to be met at each interaction
point and how are these being monitored?
What parties are involved in water
supply chain risk?
The Framework for Management of Drinking Water Quality in the Australian
Drinking Water Guidelines covers water quality supply chain risks at its heart,
requiring you to understand your system from catchment to consumer. There are
many parties involved in getting the water from its source to the endpoint – in
a fit for purpose state. It’s important that you understand all your water
quality supply chain parties and how they might impact on your ability to
deliver your corporate and strategic objectives.
Table 1 below includes
examples of the different types of parties that you might encounter in a water quality
supply chain, and examples of risks that they might pose to achieving your
objective of providing safe, quality water.
Roles and responsibilities – water
In our previous
article, we looked at the conceptual water quality process flow diagram and the
need to understand the ‘who, what and where’ of water quality within the
There is another important point to consider in water quality supply
chain risk – the ‘why’. All involved in the supply of water should understand
the business that their utility is in, their role in the business, and how
their decisions might impact on water quality.
“Why are we
doing what we are doing?”
“Why is my
role important in protecting public health?”
So, when you’re thinking of ‘parties’, don’t just think about your external parties, you also need to consider how your internal stakeholders might impact on your ability to keep supplying safe, quality water. We’ve included some examples of internal party water quality supply chain risk sources in Table 1.
|Potential Risk Source
|Provision of regulatory and operating licence compliance audit services.
|Not picking up key compliance issues e.g. raw water bypass missed on flow diagram, critical limits not appropriate for the critical control point.
Too ‘hands-off’ in applying the relevant Drinking-water Compliance Requirements and ensuring utility compliance with its Water Safety Plan.
|Provision of treatment chemicals.
|Contaminants in the treatment chemicals above Australian Drinking Water Guideline and or utility specification values.
Low or no stock resulting in inability to provide fit for purpose water and/or customer levels of service.
Chemicals are delivered into the wrong tank.
|Provision of materials used in contact with drinking water.
|Materials leach health-related and/or taste and odour chemicals (e.g. benzo-a-pyrene, NDMA, lead) into drinking water.
Materials are not certified to AS/NZS 4020 Testing of products for use in contact with drinking water.
Materials are certified to AS/NZS 4020 but fail when used in practice.
|Receipt of water service/product from the utility.
|‘Creative’ plumbing resulting in potential for cross connection into utility’s distribution system.
Inappropriate disposal of paint thinners or other hydrocarbons at the ‘main to meter’ section, leaching through soil and dissolving the distribution system pipes.
|Provision of advice to utility.
|Advice and/or design is incorrect and utility acts on the advice/implements the flawed design.
|Provision of contracting services to utility.
|Changing of system information without informing the utility e.g. SCADA settings, critical limits on critical control points.
Use of non-compliant materials and fittings e.g. using a sewer pump in a drinking water context.
Not maintaining enough staff to fully meet requirements of the contract.
|Utility executives and directors (including Councillors)
|Responsibility for direction and higher oversight.
|Water quality responsibilities, products and services are not fully understood, meaning that decisions made at a high level may compromise water quality outcomes (e.g. saving money by procuring cheaper chemicals, allowing or expanding recreation in water supply catchments, not considering water quality impacts when planning for growth).
|Utility business units
|Responsibility for managing services which support correct operation of the overall enterprise.
|Changing of key documents or processes without proper consideration of public health and the flow on impacts to water quality management (e.g. risk management procedures and other policies, mandated use of enterprise-wide software, dissemination of media campaigns).
|Responsibility for system management and operational oversight.
|Delegation of tasks without proper supervision.
Failure to investigate trends in water quality results including repeated E. coli findings.
Not fully appreciating the importance of the drinking water quality risk management plan.
|Provision of operation and maintenance services.
|Failure to properly manage the maintenance of plant equipment or keep records of that work.
|Water Resource Manager
|Statutory guardian of the water resource.
|Lack of management of uncapped bores resulting in pathway for contamination of water source.
Not having an expected understanding of the water contamination risks for the water source.
Failure to monitor compliance with issued water extraction permits.
The next time you’re looking at your
compliance and stakeholder registers, take the time to rethink how you really
interact with that particular party, how they might impact on your water supply
system, and whether you really have the right control in place to manage your
water quality supply chain risk.
Need help? Risk Edge and D2K Information profoundly know water. We can assist you with system assessment, auditing, water quality monitoring technology and information, tailored for your context. Our aim is to provide well-designed and executed water quality monitoring, information and system optimisation solutions. Learn more here.
As published by the Certified Enterprise Risk Manager® (CERM) Academy, Issue #245 by Annette Davison, Director and Principal, Risk Edge Pty Ltd; Director and Chief Risk and Product Officer, D2K Information Pty Ltd
Director and Chief Risk and Product Officer, D2K Information Pty Ltd
#watersupplygovernance #sourcetoendpoint #supplychainrisk