07 February 2018

Statement from the Chief Health Officer, Professor Tarun Weeramanthri: School Water Supplies

Following recent publicity around water quality at several Western Australian schools, I wish to reassure the community that strict processes are in place to ensure the safety of drinking water in this State.

Water suppliers and regulators, within the Department of Health, are constantly working together to ensure drinking water supplied to the public meets Australian guidelines, and is safe to drink.

While there is no information to suggest that water quality at WA schools is any different to other Australian schools, I am now aware there is a need for greater guidance and consistency regarding approaches to sampling, testing methodologies, and processes for expert interpretation in the school setting.

I will, therefore, seek a scientific review and update on these school water supply matters from the WA Advisory Committee for the Purity of Water. This advisory committee was established in 1925, and provides expert advice to the Minister for Health and the Minister for Water, as well as to myself.

In addition, I have asked the Department of Health’s water experts to work with their interstate colleagues, and other national experts, to develop a nationally agreed protocol that can be applied to a range of school settings.

I expect that clear guidelines for schools on appropriate drinking water sampling, testing and treatment will be in place by the start of the 2019 school year.

The Department of Health will continue to provide technical advice and support to the Department of Education, and other suppliers, to manage any specific water quality risks in particular schools.