The Standard of Care Explained

What is the Standard of Care?

Brian JobbBy Brian Jobb,
Manager, Training Institute
Walkerton Clean Water Centre

The Statutory Standard of Care is Section 19 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 2002. The Standard of Care, which came into effect on December 31, 2012, expressly extends legal responsibility to people with decision-making authority over municipal drinking water systems. It requires that they exercise the level of care, diligence and skill with regard to a municipal drinking water system that a reasonably prudent person would be expected to exercise in a similar situation. It is also expected that they exercise this due diligence honestly, competently and with integrity.

The Standard of Care legislation applies to municipal councils and management, but does not apply directly to certified drinking water operators.

Standard of Care cardGiven the importance of effectively reaching the target group of decision-makers, special training and guidance material was deemed to be necessary. In 2009, The Ministry of Environment assembled an Advisory Group which consisted of mayors and  councillors representing large, medium and small systems, OMWA, OWWA, AMO, MOE and WCWC Staff. A guidebook was developed which was adapted from material in the Ontario Municipal Water Association’s 2004 handbook “Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Responsibilities”.

In addition, a specific training course was developed; the advisory group felt this should be a plain-language, high-level, instructor-led, short course. Material for this training course was adapted from the OMWA Handbook, publications by Dr. Steve Hrudey and information from several Walkerton Clean Water Centre training courses.

(Click on the image to download the PDF of the OMWA rack card)

The first Standard of Care course was delivered in early 2011 and since then it has been delivered to over 2,500 participants at over 160 sessions held throughout Ontario. The majority of training has been delivered on-site at the location of the client municipality.

Training sessions are often requested as a part of, or immediately following a council meeting, including evenings and weekends. The cost of a 3-hour training session delivered at the client’s location anywhere in Ontario is a flat rate of $1,600. A maximum number of 20 participants is recommended due to the interactive nature of the training. Local municipalities often get together at a common location to reduce costs.

This “on-site” training is coordinated at the request of the client and the session would not be posted publicly on the WCWC website. Alternatively, WCWC occasionally posts training sessions that are open for any individual to register at a cost of $160 and these sessions are listed on the website.

What is the focus of the training?

Standard of Care cardThe main goals of the training are to remind municipal councils of their responsibility for providing safe drinking water and to highlight the importance of safe drinking water from a public health and economic perspective. The training materials are quite basic and aimed at the first-time councillor. Since this training has appeared to be particularly useful for newly-elected officials, the development of a revised training course is being planned for delivery starting in mid-2018, to coincide with the next round of municipal elections.

The 3-hour training course provides background information on drinking water systems to enable decision-makers to make informed decisions concerning the systems they oversee. Case studies of disasters that have occurred in North America are used to illustrate what can go wrong and how to prevent it from happening. Learning from other’s mistakes is an important part of the training; we all need to make a commitment to avoid making the same mistakes for the sake of those that have been affected by tragedy.

Has the training program made a difference?

Feedback from virtually all training sessions has been very positive and participants generally feel that they absorbed some valuable information. There has been some anecdotal evidence suggesting that councils that have participated in the training have a different perspective on their role in providing of safe drinking water to their communities. When asked this question directly, many operators whose councils have taken the training indicated that they have noticed a difference.

If this program prevents one illness, then it will have been worthwhile.


Brian Jobb is Manager of the Walkerton Clean Water Centre’s (WCWC) Training Institute. He belongs to AWWA Small Systems Division, Continuing Education Committee (Chair), WCWC Training Advisory Committee (Chair), OWWA Small Systems Committee (Past-Chair), CWWA Water Quality Committee, and several MOECC committees and is a Past-Chair (2004-05) of the OWWA. He has more than 30 years of experience in operational troubleshooting, research, technical advisory, operator training and applied drinking water treatment chemistry. He was Recipient of the 2014 AWWA Soaring to the Summit Award for service to the small systems sector, 1999 Recipient of the OWWA Norman J. Howard Award for sincerity in serving the waterworks industry and the 2016 OMWA Don Black Award.

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