Civil and Environmental Engineering


Date of this Version



Journal of Water and Health Vol 21 No 8, 1073 doi: 10.2166/wh.2023.099 Downloaded from


Open access.


Following the waterborne disease outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, the province made significant efforts to implement recommendations of the public inquiry that resulted. As Ontario reformed its drinking water sector, other jurisdictions were advancing risk-based quality management frameworks for drinking water, including the World Health Organization (WHO) through its water safety plan (WSP) framework. Two decades after the Walkerton tragedy, this paper seeks to: (i) evaluate alignment of Ontario’s Drinking Water Quality Management Standard (DWQMS) with the WSP framework (ii) review readily available data for evidence that Ontario’s DWQMS implementation has improved drinking water safety and promoted a preventive approach through risk-based quality management. Our study found strong alignment between the Ontario DWQMS and WSP frameworks, with supporting programmes and risk assessment procedures present. Analysis of available regulatory data revealed abundant reporting of water quality and adverse incidents in municipal water systems. However, performance data were publicly available, the use of percentage scores for water quality testing obscures the details of system performance and water safety. Reports describing the DWQMS plan and audit results were difficult to obtain and not standardized. There is a need to develop mechanisms to ensure continual improvement of the DWQMS.