206937 'Boil, boil, toil and trouble': The trouble with boil water advisories in British Columbia

Monday, November 9, 2009

Renuka Rani Grover, BSc , School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Kay Teschke, PhD , School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Ray Copes, MD, CM, MSc, DIH , BC Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Donald Mavinic, PhD, PEng , Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Clean, safe and reliable drinking water is a fundamental human right, but not everyone is continually supplied drinking water of such quality. In most countries, boil water advisories and other forms of public notifications of drinking water quality are meant as temporary, precautionary measures to protect the public from possible waterborne illnesses. The number of advisories currently in place in Canada is in the thousands, and many of these have been ongoing from months to years. Attention to boil water advisories is warranted, especially since they may be used as “band-aid” substitutes for action. In this study, twenty short-term and long-term boil water advisories, in the province of British Columbia, were randomly selected for investigation. Representatives from each of the three key groups involved and affected by water governance - government officials, water purveyors and the public - were interviewed about the selected advisories. Both government officials and water purveyors were questioned on how the decision to issue the advisory was made, how the advisory was communicated to the public and any corrective actions taken since. Randomly selected members of the public were interviewed to determine whether they were aware of the advisory, understood its message and were complying with the recommended risk reduction measures. The results of the study provide insight on the current state of the problem with boil water advisories in British Columbia and will be used to construct a toolkit for public health professionals involved in water governance.

Learning Objectives:
1) Describe the decision-making processes used by public health personnel when issuing boil water advisories 2) Describe the method by which advisories are communicated to the public 3) Describe the actions taken by government officials and water purveyors post-issuance 4) Discuss issues with public awareness, understanding and compliance 5) List elements of a toolkit for those involved in water governance

Keywords: Water, Water Quality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: this abstract describes research (in progress) that I am completing as my Master of Science thesis at the University of British Columbia. I am conducting all research work for this study (under the guidance of my thesis committee members).
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.