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Water System Operators

Small Drinking Water System Operators

If your business or organization makes drinking water available to the public and you do not get your drinking water from a municipal drinking water system, you may be an owner or operator of a Small Drinking Water System (SDWS). These systems need to follow the requirements outlined within Ontario Regulation 319/08: Small Drinking Water Systems.

Some examples are systems that supply water to restaurants, seasonal trailer parks, community centres, libraries, gas stations, motels, churches, and many other public facilities not served by municipal water.

Public health inspectors will conduct a site-specific risk assessment of each SDWS to determine basic operating requirements to assist you in providing safe drinking water.

We’ve created a self-inspection checklist to help you meet the requirements of Ontario Regulation 319/08 Small Drinking Water Systems. More detail about these requirements can be found in the sections below:

As an owner of a SDWS, you must provide specific information to the local public health unit in writing prior to supplying water to users following construction, installation, alteration, extension or after not providing water for 60 days or longer by completing and submitting the Small Drinking Water Systems Notice and Designation Form.

The written notice includes the following:

  • Building permit number for any construction, installation, alteration or extension to the SDWS.
  • Date the water supply will be made available to users.
  • Name and address of the SDWS as well as the owner and operator.
  • Confirmation that all preparations have been completed as prescribed by O. Reg. 319 and the site- specific directive.
  • If your SDWS will resume operation following a 60 day or longer closure, test results must also be provided with your written notification.

You also need to designate an operator for your SDWS who will collect samples, perform tests, receive laboratory results, and submit reports. SDWS operators need to maintain training in drinking water system operation, maintenance, safety and emergency procedures as prescribed within your site-specific directive.  As an owner of an SDWS, you can designate yourself as the operator.

Owners of SDWS must ensure that the people working on their system or collecting samples have the required training as determined by a public health inspector and outlined in the site-specific directive. This training should include an understanding of relevant safety and emergency procedures.  Some training options are available below.

The Ministry of Health Factsheet: Operator Training

Walkerton Clean Water Centre

The Walkerton Clean Water Centre is a recognized training facility that offers a wide variety of training courses for owners/operators of SDWS in Ontario.

Visit their training webpage for more information about courses and important resources that will help you safely operate and maintain your SDWS.

Government of Canada Small Systems Training Program

The Government of Canada developed free water quality training materials as part of a multi-barrier approach to providing safe water in areas of federal jurisdiction, including federal lands, in federal facilities and/or Indigenous communities. The information provided in this federal training program can also be applied to the safe operation and maintenance of small drinking water systems in Ontario.

Disclaimer: When accessing this training program, it is important to note that the regulatory information used in the training materials may not be applicable in Ontario. Please refer to the following regulations if you own or operate a small drinking water system in Ontario.

Owners and operators must maintain their SDWS so that:

  • All equipment is in proper working order, kept clean and in a safe condition.
  • Water meets the requirements of O. Reg 319 and does not exceed the maximum allowable concentrations within O. Reg 169: Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards.
  • All sampling, testing, monitoring, and reporting requirements are met.
  • Well and reservoirs are constructed to prevent contamination of the water supply.

Sampling and testing are the only way to know if your small drinking water system contains contaminants from microbiological, chemical, physical or radiological parameters. 

Have your water tested at a laboratory licensed by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).

Notify the local public health unit of the laboratory you intend to use by completing and submitting the Laboratory Services Notification (LSN) form.

Testing for E.coli and total coliform bacteria are the minimum sampling requirements. The site-specific directive issued to your SDWS by one of our public health inspectors may specify additional tests that must be performed. Water samples need to be collected based on the frequency prescribed within your SDWS site-specific directive using the collection procedures provided by the laboratory for sample bottles, form completion, transportation methods and timelines for delivery of samples to the laboratory.

When you collect water samples, complete tests for the free-available chlorine residual and record the results in your log book.

Keep in mind that sampling records must be kept for five years and must be made available if requested during an inspection or by a member of the public.

The Ministry of Health Factsheet: Sampling and Testing

Owners and operators of SDWS must maintain records on the following for at least 5 years:

  • Sampling and testing records containing the date and time, result and the name of the person that completed the sample or test.
  • All maintenance completed on water treatment equipment containing date and time of actions taken, name of person that took the action and outcomes. These records need to be maintained while the water treatment equipment remains in use or for a minimum of 5 years which ever is longer.
  • All orders issued under the Health Protection and Promotion Act by a public health inspector for your SDWS.

These records must be available for the public at no charge and during regular business hours. Proper record keeping demonstrates you are doing your due diligence in adhering to all legislative requirements.

If a public health inspector determines access to the drinking water system is sufficiently restricted and there is no risk to the public’s health, the site-specific directive for your SDWS may allow signs to be posted at service connections, taps or other water delivery devices warning the public not to drink the water.

Routine sampling of the water supply will not be required provided the warning signs remain posted as prescribed for your SDWS.

If your SDWS obtains water from a surface water source or a non-secure well you must ensure appropriate treatment equipment is provided. Some examples of a non-secure well are dug wells, bored wells, sand-point (driven) wells, but may also include certain drilled wells.

If your SDWS requires water treatment equipment, you must ensure it is installed and operated in accordance with the regulation, the site-specific directive and manufacturer instructions.

The Ministry of Health Factsheet: Treatment Options

When something goes wrong with small drinking water system (SDWS), the event may be referred to as an adverse drinking water quality incident (AWQI). As soon as you are aware of an adverse test result (e.g., total coliform or E. coli result, UV issues, low chlorine residual or other problems that may impact the safety of the water), you must: 

  • Immediately report the event to the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) by speaking with someone in person or on the phone. Even if the health unit is closed, you can still report it.
  • A public health inspector is available to take these reports during regular office hours Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.
  • If reporting an adverse water quality incident outside of regular office hours, please call 1-877-225-7851 to speak with an inspector.


IMPORTANT: You must speak directly with someone on the phone. Leaving a voicemail does not fulfill your requirement to make an immediate report.  

Fax Number: (705) 722-7696

Email: [email protected] 

Mail: 15 Sperling Drive, Barrie, ON L4M 6K9

The Ministry of Health Factsheet: Responding to Adverse Events

When the issue is corrected, you must provide a follow-up written notice to our Health Unit, summarizing the actions taken and the results achieved.

Fill out the section "Summary of Actions Taken and Results Achieved" on the Notice of Adverse Test Results and Issue Resolution form and submit it to us within one week after you resolve the problem by:

Fax Number: (705) 722-7696

Email: [email protected] 

Mail: 15 Sperling Drive, Barrie, ON L4M 6K9

Below are forms that apply to SDWS. As owners/operators of an SDWS, you are responsible for completing and submitting the necessary forms to the health unit:

The following form is available to assist you with meeting the legal requirements for your SDWS:

External Links

Well Record Search

Notice of Adverse Test Results and Issue Resolution form (Schedule 16 for drinking water systems under Regulation 170)

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