Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water

The Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water is a non-statutory inter-departmental committee that operates under the chairship of the Department of Health Western Australia.

Amongst other functions, the Advisory Committee provides advice to the Ministers for Health and Water on protecting, monitoring and managing drinking water quality in Western Australia and fosters inter-agency co-operation on related matters.

The history of the Committee

The Advisory Committee was originally established in 1925 to address drinking water quality issues and to provide a link between the then Department of Water Supply Sewerage and Drainage and the Department of Health. It was comprised of senior officers from each department and was empowered to communicate directly to the then Minister for Works.

From the first meetings, the Advisory Committee identified the importance of secure catchment areas and adequate treatment processes and sought representation from senior officers from the Departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Land Management and the Chemistry Centre of Western Australia.

In response to the water industry reforms of 1995, the Advisory Committee resolved to transfer the Chair and Secretariat to the Department of Health, to amend its terms of reference and to provide advice to the Minister for Health.

Additional members from the then Department of Water, the Economic Regulation Authority, AqWest, Busselton Water Board and others were invited at the time to join the Committee to better reflect the water industry in Western Australia.

With the implementation of the 2004 “Australian Drinking Water Guidelines”, the Advisory Committee created two specialist sub-committees – one focussing on source protection and catchment management, the other focusing on drinking water sampling, results and monitoring.

Both sub-committees provide valuable additional expertise to review, monitor and advise the full Committee on any issue affecting drinking water supplies within the State, from catchment to consumer.

The Advisory Committee continues to evolve, reflecting the diverse and complex issues associated with the provision of drinking water in a changing environment.  However, its primary role of ensuring that Western Australians have access to safe drinking water which they can trust remains unchanged.

What is the role of each Committee?

The main role of the Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water is to provide sound health-related advice pertaining to the quality of drinking water to both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Water.  In this role the Advisory Committee determines the water quality compliance requirements for drinking water providers across Western Australia.

The Minister for Health has the lead responsibility with respect to issues of health, however it has been customary for both Ministers to consider recommendations of the Advisory Committee.

Members are at liberty to discuss matters openly and frankly.  Issues that may be commercial and in-confidence are dealt with accordingly.

The Results Sub-Committee and the Source Protection Sub-Committee have been established to provide specialised support for their respective areas of interest.

To ensure close liaison, the Chair for each sub-committee is a member of the Advisory Committee and the Secretariat attends all meetings.  Advisory Committee members may attend sub-committee meetings at any time.

The Terms of Reference of the Advisory Committee and the Source Protection Sub-Committee were updated in 2019 and are included in this document.

The Terms of Reference for the Advisory Committee were originally endorsed on 15 April 1998 and updated and re-endorsed by the Minister for Health on 5 May 2019. Terms of Reference for the Source Protection Sub-Committee were endorsed on 8 August 2011 and updated and re-endorsed by the Advisory Committee on 18 February 2019.  The Terms of Reference are set out below.

It should be noted that the Committees do not have an incident management or emergency response role, nor do they routinely consider matters specific to the provision of bottled or packaged water under the food regulatory framework.

Code of Conduct

Whilst the Advisory Committee is a valuable forum for discussion and interaction, and appropriate feedback to the agencies they represent is encouraged, there remains an obligation on members to suitably respect the confidentiality and integrity of the data presented.

Advisory Committee members, including sub-committee members, all advising officers to the Committees and all departmental employees supporting the Committees, are expected to comply with the Advisory Committee’s Code of Conduct whilst undertaking their duties in relation to the Advisory Committee.

Committee members commit to upholding the principles of the Code of Ethics (external site) and taking responsibility for contributing in a constructive and positive way to enhance good governance and the reputation of the Advisory Committee.

More generally, the Committees operate in accordance with applicable record keeping, conduct and privacy provisions for the Western Australian public sector.

When do the Committees meet?

The Advisory Committee meets four times each year, in February, May, August and November.

The Results Sub-Committee meets four times each year, in February, May, August and November, usually two weeks prior to the Advisory Committee’s meetings.

The Source Protection Sub-Committee meets monthly, usually on the fourth week in each month.

How is drinking water regulated in Western Australia and where does the Advisory Committee fit in?

Regulation of drinking water in Western Australia is divided into licensed and non-licensed providers, with the Advisory Committee an integral part of the monitoring framework.

The Economic Regulation Authority (external site) licenses larger water service providers such as the Water Corporation, Aqwest and Busselton Water, as well as Rottnest Island Authority, Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd, Robe River Mining Co Pty Ltd, Lancelin South Pty Ltd, Moore River Water Services Pty Ltd and Athena Water Solutions Pty Ltd.

As part of the license arrangement each licensed water provider is required to establish a binding Memorandum of Understanding for Drinking Water Quality with the Department of Health.

All other non-licensed drinking water providers, such as caravan parks, roadhouses, camps, small or remote communities and mine sites are monitored directly by the Department of Health, through either Local Government environmental health officers or by direct reporting by mine sites or by the Department of Communities (Housing) under the Remote Essential and Municipal Services program).

Through both sub-committees the Advisory Committee reviews all drinking water monitoring and catchment management activities undertaken throughout the State.  Combining this information with scientific and industry knowledge, the Advisory Committee is able to identify and respond to longer term trends and anomalies that may affect public health in Western Australia.

The Advisory Committee endorses the adoption of the edition of the “Australian Drinking Water Guidelines” that was published by the National Health and Medical Research Council in August 2018, known as Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011 - Version 3.5 Updated August 2018 ” (external site), as the basis for setting policy on the quality and safety of drinking water supplied in Western Australia and the risk management framework that applies thereto.  This document was subsequently endorsed by the Minister for Health in December 2018 for this purpose.

Would you like more information?

For more information about any aspect of the Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water please contact:
Mr Richard Theobald
Secretary
Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water
Department of Health
P.O. Box 8172
Perth Business Centre WA 6849

Telephone: (08) 9222 2000

Email: richard.theobald@health.wa.gov.au

Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water - terms of reference

(as endorsed by the Minister for Health on 5 May 2019)

  • To advise the Minister for Health and the Chief Health Officer on matters relating to the regulation of drinking water quality.
  • To advise the Ministers for Health and Water on any matter affecting the quality of drinking water that is referred to the Advisory Committee by either Minister or initiated by the Advisory Committee.
  • To report to the Ministers from time to time on any matter arising out of these Terms of Reference that the Advisory Committee considers should be brought to their attention.
  • To recommend alternative quality criteria or guideline values for drinking water in specific locations in the State, where those recommended in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines” (external site)  may be locally inappropriate.
  • To regularly review the results of the routine and any special tests carried out by any drinking water provider, the Health Department of Western Australia and local governments on drinking water supplies available to the public.
  • To review and advise on arrangements and procedures adopted for monitoring the quality of drinking water.
  • To keep under review trends or practices that might adversely affect the quality of catchment run-off or groundwater used or available for use.
  • To consider and advise on proposed developments or practices that might affect the quality of catchment run-off or groundwater used or available for use for drinking water supplies.
  • To advise on special studies or surveys relating to the quality of drinking water, to receive reports on such studies or surveys, and recommend any actions considered necessary.
  • To foster inter-departmental co-operation for the efficient carrying out of action taken under the above Terms of Reference.
  • To seek advice and input as required and from specialist organisations to accomplish the above Terms of Reference.

Drinking Water Source Protection Sub-Committee - terms of reference

(as endorsed by the Advisory Committee on 18 February 2019)

  • To assist the Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water to protect Public Drinking Water Source Areas, consistent with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines” (external site) catchment to consumer risk based multiple barrier framework.
  • To receive and provide advice on water quality monitoring data in Public Drinking Water Source Areas.
  • To ensure that source protection issues of concern are passed on within respective agencies for appropriate action.
  • To provide feedback on the nature and extent of agency responses to source protection issues or incidents.
  • To provide input to the development of agency protocols dealing with source protection issues.
  • To keep all agencies informed of relevant source protection developments.
  • To provide advice on legislative changes that may have an impact on drinking water quality issues.
  • To consider the implications of State, National and International policy and practice in relation to the protection of drinking water quality in Public Drinking Water Source Areas.

Membership details - 2019

Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water

  • Senior representatives from:
  • Department of Health (Chair and Secretariat)
  • Department of Water and Environmental Regulation 
  • Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
  • Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions
  • Department of Communities (Housing)
  • Economic Regulation Authority
  • Chemistry Centre of Western Australia
  • PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA
  • Aqwest (Bunbury Water Corporation)
  • Busselton Water
  • Water Corporation

Source Protection Sub-Committee

Representatives from:

  • Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (Chair and Secretariat)
  • Department of Health
  • Water Corporation

Results Sub-Committee

Representatives from:

  • Department of Health (Chair and Secretariat)
  • Chemistry Centre of Western Australia
  • PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA
  • Department of Communities (Housing)
  • Water Corporation
Last reviewed: 10-05-2019
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Public Health