Introduction

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is now offering a voluntary certification scheme to the drinking water utility sector. Utilities who have implemented the requirements of ISO 24512 can now have their management systems independently audited by NSAI. This new certification scheme is intended to advance and encourage the adoption of a systematic approach throughout the sector. Assessment of compliance with ISO 24512 will be conducted by NSAI personnel with extensive experience in the water utilities sector. Following a successful assessment scheme participants are listed on the NSAI web site (www.nsai.ie) - Directory of Registered Companies, and issued with an NSAI certificate
of registration. Certified organisations are entitled to use the unique NSAI Drinking Water Mark and are subject to annual inspections in order to verify on-going conformance with the requirements of this international standard.

What Does Registration Provide?

  • Independent verification of effective system implementation and operation

  • Benchmarking with best practices
  • A stimulus for continual improvement
  • An appraisal of legal compliance
  • Confirmation of environmental sustainability
  • The establishment of stakeholder confidence
  • Recognition of compliance through use of the NSAI Drinking Water Mark

Drinking Water Management

Water is a basic fundamental for life. The basic needs of humans, from food production to personal hygiene and sanitation, are intimately dependent on an adequate supply of water of an appropriate quality.

The ever increasing demand for potable water prompted by the rapidly expanding population has placed a heavy burden on existing water treatment infrastructure. The consequence of this burden has manifested itself in a high degree of non-compliance against water quality requirements.

Such short-comings have resulted in numerous public health concerns which have heightened public awareness and given rise to a general lack of confidence in water supplies. Based upon recent regulatory findings these concerns have been substantiated in some incidences.

In a recent publication the EPA reported the following:

  • 40% of water treatment plants are operating inadequately and are at increased risk of Cryptosporidium contamination
  • 20% of water supplies are contaminated with faecal indicators such as E. coli
  • There continues to be insufficient monitoring of water safety in more than 120 public group water schemes

To promote increased consumer confidence in the water management sector, the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) have collected and distilled relevant internationally recognised best practice and published it as ISO 24512:2007: Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services – Guidelines for the management of drinking water utilities and for the assessment of drinking water services.

Management & Assessment of Drinking Water Utilities and Drinking Water Services- The ISO 24512 Approach

ISO 24512, one of a series of standards addressing water services, provides guidelines for the management of drinking water utilities and for the assessment of drinking water services. The standard recommends that the management and operators of publicly and privately owned drinking water utilities establish operations that fundamentally embrace all legal requirements and give consideration to recognised best practices. Fundamental to the ISO 24512 approach is a clear understanding of the extent of the water utility operations to be managed. These may include abstraction, treatment, and distribution activities and the treatment, reuse or disposal of its residues. For effective management of such utilities, it is recommended that an integrated management systems approach, encompassing all components of the water utility, be established based upon a “plan-do-check-act” model. An essential element to this approach is the establishment of core objectives that embrace:

  • Protection of public health
  • Meeting users’ needs and expectations
  • Service provision under normal and emergency situations
  • Sustainability of the water utility
  • Promotion of sustainable community development
  • Protection of the environment
  • Attainment of these objectives is achieved through establishing clear management and operational procedures and mechanisms for the review of performance.

Such an approach is applicable to drinking water systems in their entirety and is appropriate to systems at any level of development e.g. on-site systems, treatment facilities and distribution networks.

The major components and key elements of ISO 24512 are;

Adoption of ISO 24512 by drinking water utilities promotes awareness of the significance of public health protection and the establishment of reliable management practices. Such an approach contributes to safeguarding the provision of potable water to dependent communities and providing confidence in this most basic of human needs