Operations and Management


Good management of a drinking water system is critical for delivering safe water. A number of administrative and technical components are required for good management, including:

  • Operations and Maintenance
  • Annual Reporting

This section will help small water suppliers access the know-how needed to effectively manage these components, and the Certification section will direct water system operators to further training.

Glossary of Terms

Related to the study of bacteria.


A metering device that is used to add chlorine to water.


The gradual decomposition or destruction of a material due to chemical action, often an electrochemical reaction. Corrosion starts at the surface of a material and moves inward.


The process designed to kill or inactivate most microorganisms in water, including essentially all pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. There are several ways to disinfect, with chlorination being the most frequently used in water treatment.


A force acting on a given area. The pressure is calculated by dividing the force by the area over which it is acting. The unit of pressure is the Pascal (metric system) or pound per square inch (psi).

pressure tank

A tank used in water systems to maintain pressure and provide storage.


A pond, lake, basin, or other structure (natural or artificial) that stores, regulates, or controls water.

raw water

Water in its natural state, prior to any treatment. Usually the water entering the first treatment process of a water treatment plant.

residual chlorine

The amount of free and/or available chlorine remaining after a given contact time under specified conditions.

swab or scour

A maintenance procedure where pipes are cleaned by physically scrubbing the inner surface of the piping.

flush water main

A maintenance procedure whereby water is flushed down a pipe at high flow rate to discharge debris and contaminants.

Operations and Maintenance

Desired Outcomes of Operations and Maintenance

Small water systems require frequent and ongoing maintenance to keep the water they supply safe. If you achieve the following outcomes related to operations and maintenance, you can help ensure that your system remains sustainable and costs reasonable:

  • be knowledgeable of the water system's infrastructure (assets) and their locations
  • be knowledgeable of the condition of the water system
  • maintain an adequate disinfection residual in all parts of the system
  • maintain positive water pressures under foreseeable operating conditions
  • implement a backflow prevention and cross-connection control program
  • ensure proper disinfection and flushing procedures are used for repairs and new construction
  • monitor for internal and external corrosion of piping and equipment and, if necessary, implement measures to reduce the rate of corrosion
  • meter water supply and consumption to estimate water usage and losses and, if necessary, implement a leak detection program
  • maintain the source water intake, dam, raw water reservoir or wellhead site
  • maintain the treatment plant, pumping stations, and reservoirs
  • maintain the distribution system valves and hydrants
  • flush and/or swab the watermains;]
  • maintain a spare parts inventory


The specific tasks that need to be completed and how often they need to be done to achieve these outcomes will differ depending on the water system. The following is general guidance. Your specific needs may be different.


  • Read master water meter
  • Inspect wellhead/intake and area
  • Inspect chlorinator
  • Record chlorine residuals
  • Monitor water level in reservoir or storage tanks
  • Check/repair leaks


  • Check operation of pressure tanks
  • Check system pressure
  • Collect bacteriological water samples


  • Check pump operations
  • Clean pumphouse and area
  • Clean chlorine lines and tanks
  • Calibrate chlorinator
  • Check reservoir or storage tanks for damage


  • Exercise valves
  • Check safety equipment


  • Flush distribution system
  • Prepare for winter operation
  • Maintain pump house, etc.
  • Update emergency response plan
  • Publish annual report
  • Calibrate chlorine meter

Other activities

  • Clean reservoir and storage tanks (2-3 years)
  • Physical/Chemical sampling (3-5 years)

Source: Province of Manitoba

Annual Reporting

Water suppliers in British Columbia are currently required to publish an annual report that contains the results of all the water system monitoring you did that year. This would include any bacteriological or chemical/physical sampling required in the regulation or as a condition on your operating permit.

Your water users can use the annual report to find important information about the quality of their drinking water. It is important for improving communication between the water supplier and the water users.

The following items must also be made public:

  • The water supplier's emergency response and contingency plan
  • The most recent assessment (water source and system assessments), if applicable
  • The current plan (assessment response plans), if applicable
  • Other information required to be made public by the regulation, operating permit or DWO

The report can be posted in a public location, published on a website, or delivered to individual users.

An example of an Annual Report can be found at Appendix D of the Small Water System Guidebook (BC Ministry of Health).