Water Safety Plans

Compiled by:
Bipin Dangol (Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO))
Adapted from:
DWI (Editor) (2005)

Executive Summary

Water Safety Plans are an improved risk management tool designed to ensure the safety of drinking water through the use of a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach that encompasses all steps in water supply from catchment to consumer. The WSP approach has been developed to organize and systematize a long history of management practices applied to drinking water and to ensure the applicability of these practices to the management of drinking-water quality. It draws on many of the principles and concepts from other risk management approaches, in particular the multiple-barrier approach and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points - HACCP (WHO 2008).

What are Water Safety Plans (WSP)?

Water Safety Plans (WSP) are an effective way of ensuring that a water supply is safe for human consumption and that it meets the health based standards and other regulatory requirements. It is based on a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach to all the steps in a water supply chain from catchment to consumer.

Key Components of a Water Safety Plan (WSP)

Essentially, a WSP has three key components:

A system assessment to determine whether the water supply chain as a whole can deliver water of a quality that meets health-based targets. This system assessment identifies the potential hazards in each part of the water supply chain, the level of risk presented by each identified hazard and the appropriate measures to control the identified risks to ensure that the water supply is safe, the standards and targets are met and human health is protected; (see also health and hygiene issues)

Operational monitoring of an appropriate nature and frequency at an appropriate point in the water supply chain is defined for each control measure identified and implemented from the system assessment to ensure that any deviation from the required performance is rapidly detected; and

Documentation of management arrangements including details of the system assessment, operational monitoring and validation monitoring together with a description of the actions to be taken in normal operation and incident conditions when there is, or there is a risk of, non-compliance with a standard or target value or failure to meet an operational control, or there is a potential risk to human health. These actions should include appropriate investigations, remedial action in the form of improvement programmes, reporting and communication.

Objectives

The primary objectives of a water safety plan in protecting human health and ensuring good water supply practice are the minimisation of contamination of source waters, the reduction or removal of contamination through appropriate treatment processes and the prevention of contamination in the distribution network and the domestic distribution system. These objectives are applicable to all water supply chains, irrespective of their size or complexity and are achieved through:

  • development of an understanding of the specific system and its capability to supply water that meets health-based targets;
  • identification of potential sources of contamination and how they can be controlled;
  • validation of control measures employed to control hazards;
  • implementation of a system for monitoring the control measures within the water system;
  • timely corrective actions to ensure that safe water is consistently supplied; and
  • undertaking verification of drinking-water quality to ensure that the WSP is being implemented correctly and is achieving the performance required to meet relevant national, regional and local water quality standards or objectives.

Key Steps for a Water Safety Plan

A water safety plan basically contains the following steps:

wsscc 2010 Water safety plan

Key steps for the development of WSP (Source: http://www.wsscc.org/, Accessed 23.08.2010)

A somewhat similar tool in regard to sanitation are city sanitation plans.

Applicability

Water Safety Plans are applicable to all water supply systems, irrespective of their size or complexity. That means WSP are applicable for large to small scale urban and rural water supply systems. Implementation of the WSP approach requires both financial and technical support from senior management within a utility. It is important that the WSP team has adequate experience and expertise to understand water abstraction, treatment and distribution and the hazards that can affect safety through the supply system (BARTRAM et. al. 2009).  

Advantages

  • Holistic approach to ensure safe drinking water from catchment to consumers
  • Water Supply system managers and operators will be able to understand their system and the risks that must be managed
  • Enables operators identifying and controlling risks rather than just analysing them
  • Fosters team work, planning, coordination and documentation
  • Increase reliance on actual field sanitary inspection rather than relying just on water quality testing at laboratory

Disadvantages

  • Needs technical expertise in the WSP team which may not be available in all water supply systems particularly in rural areas
  • Requires additional training and capacity building initiatives
  • May require huge capital investment for large water supply systems
  • Need thorough and systematic monitoring, supervision and validation process which may be time consuming and tedious

References Library

WHO (Editor) (2008): Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality, Third Edition. Third Edition incorporating the First and Second Addenda. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO). URL [Accessed: 23.04.2012]. PDF

DWI (Editor) (2005): A Brief Guide to Water Safety Plans. London: Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI). URL [Accessed: 23.07.2010]. PDF

BARTRAM, J.; CORRALES, L.; DAVISON, A.; DEERE, D.; DRURY, D.; GORDON, B.; HOWARD, G.; RINEHOLD, A.; STEVENS, M. (2009): Water Safety Plan Manual: Step-by-step Risk Management for Drinking-water Suppliers. Geneva/London: World Health Organization (WHO); International Water Association (IWA). URL [Accessed: 14.04.2011]. PDF

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

BARTRAM, J.; CORRALES, L.; DAVISON, A.; DEERE, D.; DRURY, D.; GORDON, B.; HOWARD, G.; RINEHOLD, A.; STEVENS, M. (2009): Water Safety Plan Manual: Step-by-step Risk Management for Drinking-water Suppliers. Geneva/London: World Health Organization (WHO); International Water Association (IWA). URL [Accessed: 14.04.2011]. PDF

In 2004, the WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality recommended that water suppliers develop and implement "Water Safety Plans" (WSPs) in order to systematically assess and manage risks. Since this time, governments and regulators, water suppliers and practitioners have increasingly embraced this approach, but they have also requested further guidance. This much-anticipated workbook answers this call by describing how to develop and implement a WSP in clear and practical terms. Stepwise advice is provided through 11 learning modules, each representing a key step in the WSP development and implementation process.


Reference icon

DAVISON, A.; HOWARD, G.; STEVENS, M.; CALLAN, P.; FEWTRELL, L.; DEERE, D.; BARTRAM, J. (2005): Water Safety Plans: Managing Drinking-Water Quality from Catchment to Consumer. Geneva: World Health Organization. URL [Accessed: 23.07.2010]. PDF

This document describes the Water Safety Plan approach with relevant case studies.


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DWI (Editor) (2005): A Brief Guide to Water Safety Plans. London: Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI). URL [Accessed: 23.07.2010]. PDF

This document precisely describes the concept and key stages of WSP. It also describes the brief guidance on the preparation and content of WSPs for each element of the water supply chain.


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GODFREY, S.; HOWARD, G. (2004): Water Safety Plans (WSP) for Urban Piped Water Supplies in Developing Countries. UK: WEDC, Loughborough University. URL [Accessed: 23.07.2010]. PDF

The book is designed to guide the user through the process of developing Water Safety Plans (WSP). It provides a simple step-by-step approach to developing WSPs for operators and managers of piped water supplies. At each stage, the principles of the stage are outlined as well as methods and tools required to achieve these principles. Each section ends with a summary of key competencies achieved from each stage.


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GODFREY, S.; HOWARD, G. (2005): Water Safety Plans (WSP) Book2 Supporting Water Safety Management for Urban Piped Water Supplies in Developing Countries. UK: WEDC, Loughborough University. URL [Accessed: 23.07.2010]. PDF

This book is a collection of contributions from specialists in key areas, which have been identified, to aid the successful implementation of the Water Safety Plans. The book is divided into two sections: section one addresses the prerequisites required prior to establishing a WSP and section two focuses on the supporting programmes required to ensure effective risk management is achieved.


Reference icon

CUNLIFFE, D. (Editor); BARTRAM, J. (Editor); BRIAN, E. (Editor); CHARTIER, Y. (Editor); COLBOURNE, J. (Editor); DRURY, D. (Editor); LEE, J. (Editor); SCHAEFER, B. (Editor); SURMANN-LEE, S. (Editor) (2011): Water Safety in Buildings. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO). URL [Accessed: 26.04.2011]. PDF


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WHO (Editor) (2011): Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality, Fourth Edition. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) . URL [Accessed: 08.08.2011]. PDF

This volume of the Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality explains requirements to ensure drinking-water safety, including minimum procedures and specific guideline values, and how those requirements are intended to be used. The volume also describes the approaches used in deriving the guidelines, including guideline values. It includes fact sheets on significant microbial and chemical hazards.


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WHO (Editor) (2007): Chemical Safety of Drinking Water Assessing Priorities for Risk Management. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO). URL [Accessed: 12.10.2011]. PDF

Identifying and prioritizing chemical risks presents a challenge, especially in developing countries, because information on the presence of chemicals in water supplies is often lacking. This document provides guidance to help readers to meet that challenge. It shows how information on aspects such as geology and industrial and agricultural development, which is often readily available, can be used to identify potential chemical contaminants (and potential sources of chemicals), from catchment to consumer, and thus prioritize risks. This is a supporting document to the Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (WHO 2008 and WHO 2011), and it is aimed at policy-makers, regulators, managers and public health practitioners at national and local level.


Case Studies Library

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ARSENIC POLICY SUPPORT UNIT (Editor) (2006): Experiences from pilot projects to implement water safety plans in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Policy Support Unit (APSU). URL [Accessed: 25.07.2010]. PDF

This report describes the process of implementation of Water Safety Plans in Bangladesh since 2004. It also consolidates the experience of the development of ‘model’ WSPs for key rural water supply technologies and of implementing WSPs in communities by NGOs and the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE).


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DPHE-ITN (Editor) (2006): Water Safety Plan for Rain Water Harvesting System in Rural Water Supply System. URL [Accessed: 25.07.2010]. PDF

The case study from Bangladesh on application of WSP for Rain Water Harvesting Systems.


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GENANDRIALINE, L. (Editor) (n.y.): Water Safety Plan and Selected Case Studies. Powerpoint Presentation. Manlia: WHO . URL [Accessed: 23.08.2010]. PDF

Presentation on Water Safety Plans, describing different examples of WSP from the Philippines.


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GODFREY, S.; NIWAGABA, C.; HOWARD, G.; TIBATEMWA, S. (n.y.): Water Safety Plans for Utilities in Developing Countries – A case study from Kampala, Uganda. URL [Accessed: 23.07.2010]. PDF

This is a case study on implementation of WSP at Kampala, Uganda.


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SAMWEL, M.; JORRITSMA, F.; RADU, O. (2006): Lessons from Water Safety Plans for small-scale water supply systems as developed by schools in Romania. Utrecht, Annemasse Cedex, Munich: Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF). PDF

This publication analyses the question whether water safety approaches can be implemented with the involvement of schools, and whether the approach can be used in order to mobilize the community for minimizing water related health risks. It describes the results and experiences from a case study in Romania, draws conclusions from this and discusses future perspectives of WSP.


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VIEIRA, J.M.P. (2005): Water safety plans: methodologies for risk assessment and risk management in drinking-water systems. In: The Fourth Inter-Celtic Colloquium on Hydrology and Management of Water Resources. URL [Accessed: 25.07.2010]. PDF

This paper reviews and describes the implementation of WSP implemented at Water Supply System in Portugal.


Awareness Raising Material Library

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WHO (Editor); IWA (Editor) (2010): Water Safety Plans – Resources to support implementation. Geneva and London: World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Water Association (IWA). URL [Accessed: 23.08.2010]. PDF

This flyer was developed by WHO and IWA during World Water Day 2010, highlighting the need of WSP for improvement of drinking water quality.


Training Material Library

Reference icon

BARTRAM, J.; CORRALES, L.; DAVISON, A.; DEERE, D.; DRURY, D.; GORDON, B.; HOWARD, G.; RINEHOLD, A.; STEVENS, M. (2009): Water Safety Plan Manual: Step-by-step Risk Management for Drinking-water Suppliers. Geneva/London: World Health Organization (WHO); International Water Association (IWA). URL [Accessed: 14.04.2011]. PDF

In 2004, the WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality recommended that water suppliers develop and implement "Water Safety Plans" (WSPs) in order to systematically assess and manage risks. Since this time, governments and regulators, water suppliers and practitioners have increasingly embraced this approach, but they have also requested further guidance. This much-anticipated workbook answers this call by describing how to develop and implement a WSP in clear and practical terms. Stepwise advice is provided through 11 learning modules, each representing a key step in the WSP development and implementation process.


Reference icon

MOELLER, D.; SAMWEL, M. (2008): Developing Water Safety Plans involving schools. Introducing “Water Safety Plans” for small-scale water supply systems. Manual for teacher and pupils. Utrecht/Munich/Annemasse: Women in Europe for a Common Future. URL [Accessed: 06.01.2011]. PDF

The WSP manual is based on the WHO instrument to assess the risks for small scale water supply systems and contains information concerning water safety plans, background information, educational information and suggestions for teachers. With this manual teachers and pupils can develop water safety plans for small scale water supply systems together.


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WHO; IWA (2012): Water Safety Plans - Training package. Facilitator handbook. WHO. URL [Accessed: 08.04.2013]. PDF

is handbook is one third of a water safety plan (WSP) training package. It accompanies the WSP training workbook and WSP training PowerPoint presentations. The handbook is designed to be used by professional and non-professional trainers, who should have prior knowledge and understanding of WSPs, and who are facilitating WSP training based on the 2009 WSP manual of the International Water Association (IWA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The training is targeted at all professionals involved in the management of drinking-water safety


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WHO; IWA (2012): Water Safety Plans - Training package. Participant workbook. WHO. URL [Accessed: 08.04.2013]. PDF

This workbook is designed to be used by participants attending a water safety plan (WSP) training workshop that has been organized around the materials developed by the International Water Association (IWA) and World Health Organization (WHO). The learning material included in this workbook relates explicitly to the theory sessions that will be presented and the designed exercises. It therefore cannot be used as a standalone document to train people on all WSP aspects.


Important Weblinks

http://www.who.int/ [Accessed: 23.08.2010]

This WSPortal developed by WHO provides key stages and components of WSP with relevant case studies and tools.

http://www.wsportal.org/ [Accessed: 23.08.2010]

This WSPortal developed by WHO and IWA aims to contribute to improving and maintaining the safety of drinking water supplies through the effective implementation of WSPs. It contains collection of case studies, references and tools, which provide practical guidance and evidence-based material of relevance that can be applied appropriately for a range of circumstances.

http://www.wsscc.org/ [Accessed: 23.08.2010]

Website explaining the concept of WSPs, and providing links to further reading documents and important websites.

http://www.who.int [Accessed: 17.01.2011]

The WSP Quality Assurance Tool, jointly developed by WHO and the International Water Association (IWA), with support from AusAID, DWI (UK), MHLW (Japan) and NSF International. It facilitates an objective assessment of efforts in water safety planning, the approach recommended by the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality to ensure consistent supplies of safe drinking-water. It systematically highlights the areas in a WSP where progress is made and where opportunities for improvement present themselves.