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J Environ Manage. 2003 Jul;68(3):273-86.

Health and environmental policy issues in Canada: the role of watershed management in sustaining clean drinking water quality at surface sources.

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Department of Biology, NSERC/IRC Environmental Management of Drinking Water, University of Victoria, PO Box 3020 Stn CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8N 3N5.


Sustaining clean and safe drinking water sources is increasingly becoming a priority because of global pollution. The means of attaining and maintaining clean drinking water sources requires effective policies that identify, document, and reduce watershed risks. These risks are defined by their potential impact to human health. Health and risk are, therefore, indelibly linked because they are in part defined by each other. Understanding pathogen ecology and identifying watershed sources remains a priority because of the associated acute risks. Surface water quality changes resulting from inputs of human waste, nutrients and chemicals are associated with higher drinking water risks. Nutrient input can increase primary production and the resulting increase of organic matter results in greater disinfection by-product formation or requires greater treatment intensity. Many drinking water disease outbreaks have resulted from breaches in treatment facilities, therefore, even with greater treatment intensity poor source water quality intrinsically has greater associated health risks. Government and international agencies play a critical role in developing policy. The goal of maintaining water supplies whose availability is maximized and risks are minimized (i.e. sustainable) should be a vital part of such policy. Health risks are discussed in the context of a multi-barrier perspective and it is concluded that both passive (protection) and active (prescriptive management) management is necessary for sustainability. Canadian aboriginal water systems, British Columbian water policy and US EPA policies are given as examples. The basis for developing effective policies includes a strong reliance on sound science and effective instrumentation with careful consideration of stakeholders' interests. Only with such directed policies can the future availability of clean drinking water sources be ensured.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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