Managing risk to drinking water - a fresh perspective on backflow prevention

Annual Conference

The amendment to the Health Act 1956, in force since 1 July 2008 has redefined the landscape for all governing local authorities, drinking water suppliers, monitoring agencies - essentially all stakeholders involved in the delivery of drinking water to the community. The overall objective ‘…to protect the health and safety of people and communities by promoting adequate supplies of safe and wholesome drinking water from all drinking-water supplies’. Critical to this protection is the responsibility to ‘implement Risk Management Plans’, involving a wider range of participants in the ‘source to tap’ management of drinking water in New Zealand – and it makes good sense.

One essential (but often overlooked) aspect of maintaining wholesome drinking water in the distribution system is the need for a thorough, effective, risk based Backflow Prevention Programme. Numerous Acts, Regulations and National Standards detail how to prevent backflow at differing points between source and tap, but these separate approaches cannot always achieve the overall objective in isolation without significant cost, duplication and administrative burdens to all involved. The most effective means of protecting the health and safety of communities from risk of backflow is to get commitment from all stakeholders to an integrated programme. Stakeholders in this shared objective include consumers, plumbers, merchants and maintenance contractors among others. As key stakeholders, Networked Suppliers, Public Health, Building Consent Authorities and Local Authorities have different legislative mandates and monitoring accountabilities, but all have a common thread and can be aligned toward this shared objective.

An integrated, risk based approach doesn’t require protection at every boundary but can take into consideration a wide range of contributing factors such as consequence (including hazard), likelihood of an event, and a range of existing and alternative mitigating controls. The result in many cases, could be properties with robust controls already in place, by way of adequate internal protection and meticulous ‘inspection and maintenance procedures’.

The required drive to achieve this outcome can come from a networked supplier who is committed to delivering wholesome drinking water by managing risk in a manner that is integrated, transparent and minimises the cost of that delivery to the community.

Conference Papers Health and Safety Resource - Conference Papers

B Harkness.pdf

411 KB
30 Jun 2016