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Small Drinking Water Systems

The Northwestern Health Unit conducts on-site assessments of each small drinking water system in the Kenora and Rainy River Districts. Based on this assessment, a public health inspector determines what must be done to help keep the drinking water safe. This may include water testing, treatment, or training. 

Are you operating a small drinking water system?

​If your business or premises makes drinking water available to the public and you do not get your drinking water from a municipal drinking water system, you may be an owner or operator of a small drinking water system.

Small drinking water systems can include restaurants, seasonal trailer parks, tourist resorts, community centres, libraries, gas stations, motels, churches and many other public facilities. If you are not sure whether your premise operates a small drinking water system, contact a public health inspector at the Northwestern Health Unit.

SDWS Owner/Operator Obligations

According to Operations Manual for the MOHLTC Small Drinking Water System Program, “the owner/operator of SDWSs shall:

  • Designate an operator who is responsible for operating the system and complying with requirements for sampling, testing, and reporting
  • Notify the local Medical Officer of Health (MOH) of the name and address of the designated operator;
  • Comply with the requirements of O. Reg. 319/08 (Small Drinking Water Systems) 5 for monitoring, maintaining, and operating the system and its equipment;
  • Ensure that all water provided by the SDWS meets the requirements of the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards;
  • Ensure every operator of the system is trained in drinking water system operation, maintenance, and safety and emergency procedures, as appropriate for the individual system;
  • Promptly notify all users of the system and the local PHU of any adverse findings or incidents that affect the safety of the drinking water;
  • Comply with directives issued by PHIs; and
  • Respond to Adverse Water Quality Incidents.”
High-risk SDWS are inspected at least once every two years, and at least once every four years for moderate- and low-risk systems.

Operator Training

​Small drinking water system (SDWS) owners must have qualified individuals operate their systems, which are regulated under the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC).

  1. To assess which certificates you require, visit the OWWCO website for a breakdown of small drinking water systems and their corresponding certificate requirements.
  2. To get your “Trained Person” designation for the first time, complete the Operation of Small Drinking Water Systems Course offered by the Walkerton Clean Water Centre.
    • You will need a “Trained Person” designation if you operate the following type of drinking water system:
      • Small non-municipal non-residential system serving a designated facility
      • Small municipal non-residential system serving a designated facility
      • Non-municipal seasonal residential system serving a designated facility
  3. To maintain your “trained person” designation, you must complete one of these courses within 3 years of completing the ​Operation of Small Drinking Water Systems course:
    • Operation of Small Drinking Water Systems​ (classroom, online or correspondence), offered by the Walkerton Clean Water Centre
    • Small System Fundamentals (classroom), offered by the Walkerton Clean Water Centre
    • Best Practices for Small Systems (classroom), offered by the Walkerton Clean Water Centre
    • Small Systems Hands-on Workshop (classroom), offered by the Walkerton Clean Water Centre
    • Small Water System Operation and Maintenance​ (online or correspondence), offered by Sacramento State Water Programs

For more information on training, click here or call the NWHU.

Operator Guides

ALS Laboratory Forms

Water samples are sent to the ALS Lab in Thunder Bay for testing.

Click here to learn more about water testing and the shipping process. The form for the ALS lab can be found here: ALS Chain of Custody Form.

Adverse Reporting

Adverse events are events that may impact the quality of water and include adverse observations and adverse test results. When an adverse event occurs, it is your responsibility to notify the Health Unit immediately, and a public health inspector will assist in determining the best response.

You can contact the NWHU during office hours by calling 1-800-830-5978. If you want to phone your local Northwestern Health Unit office you can find contact numbers for all of our offices on the office locations page.

Outside of office hours, public health emergencies can be reported by calling 807-468-7109 or 1-866-475-6505.

For more information on responding to adverse events, download the MOHLTC’s document Response to Adverse Drinking Water Quality Incidents.

Regulations and Set Fines

Public health inspectors will pursue enforcement actions with powers delegated to them under the Health Protection and Promotion Act O. Reg 319 Small Drinking Water Systems.

Guidelines from the MOHLTC can be found here.

To view a list of set fines, refer to Schedule 41.2 of the Provincial Offences Act. 

Related links:

For more information on the Small Drinking Water Systems Program visit the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website and search “Small Drinking Water Systems Resources”