Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Drinking Water

Overview of the New Public Drinking Water Supply Program


The Public Drinking Water Supply Program has recently gone through significant changes which clearly define and outline specific liabilities, roles, and responsibilities of the public drinking water supply owners and the Province.

Historically, this program was delivered by the Department of Health under the Health Act and carried out by Nova Scotia Environment and Labour. Municipal water sampling for bacteria and chlorine residual were completed by Health Inspectors on a weekly basis. Samples were submitted to local hospital labs for results.

A pilot project for the new "Municipal Water Supply Program" was successfully developed and implemented in Annapolis County on April 1, 1997. Municipal water utility operators collected bacteria samples on a weekly basis and tested chlorine residuals on a daily basis. The operators" thorough knowledge of the water distribution system resulted in an immediate response to potential problems and a significant reduction in "boil advisories". Nova Scotia Environment and Labour carried out an auditing role throughout this pilot project.

This pilot demonstrated that drinking water protection is a shared responsibility involving owner, municipal, and provincial governments. The pilot was adopted by Nova Scotia Environment and Labour and instituted province-wide on April 1, 1998. The Department then expanded the program to include all public drinking water supplies with the development of Guidelines for Monitoring Public Drinking Water Supplies. The guidelines were then incorporated into regulation through amendments to the Water and Wastewater Facility Regulations.

Changes Occurring

The amended Water and Wastewater Facility Regulations and the accompanying Monitoring Public Water Guidelines - MunicipalPDF Download Link (PDF:487k), Monitoring Public Water Guidelines - RegisteredPDF Download Link (PDF:732k) all came into effect on April 1, 2020, and implementation for registered and municipal supplies began October 1, 2020. The regulations include "what" needs to be done, and the guidelines include "how" to comply with the regulations.

Public drinking water supply owners include those who own or operate a public drinking water system with at least 15 service connections or serving 25 or more individuals at least 60 days of the year. Municipal supplies and commercial or non-profit facilities which are not on municipal water supplies are included, as well as restaurants, schools, nursing homes, and campgrounds.

Regulations and Guidelines

The regulations require public drinking water supply owners to test their water supplies on a regular basis, to inform their customers and Nova Scotia Environment and Labour if there are problems, and to take corrective action to address any problems which may be identified.

All water supplied must meet health based Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality published by Health Canada.

The guidelines for monitoring public drinking water supplies call for:

  • regular and frequent testing of water
  • micro-biological and chemical testing to be conducted by approved laboratories
  • suppliers to meet stringent water quality standards
  • prescribed action to be taken if problems arise
  • clear requirements for the immediate, person-to-person communication of reports of potentially unsafe water situations to Nova Scotia Environment and Labour, the local Medical Officer of Health, and the water supply owner

Routine monitoring by the water supply owner will ensure a more proactive approach to detecting and resolving any problems. Nova Scotia Environment and Labour plays an important role in this process through auditing and enforcement.

Municipalities and the public have had input into the new guidelines and regulations, via a thorough public consultation process.