A risk-management approach — NFGWS quality assurance workshops

Attendees at a quality assurance workshop in Galway. Held in Tuam, it was the second of two workshops hosted in Galway during November.

In recent years the NFGWS has held a series of training workshops for group water schemes during the autumn/winter period. These workshops have focused on essential tasks or roles related to the successful management and operation of GWSs. This year, the focus of workshops was on critical aspects of implementing the NFGWS Quality Assurance (QA) System; specifically Critical Control Points (CCPs) 3 and 5: the treatment plant and the distribution network.

A total of 19 workshops were held during October and November at various locations around the country, utilising the NFGWS County Federation network structures where possible. A total of 299 GWS personnel attended, representing 172 GWSs, which was an excellent turnout.


Recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports have highlighted exceedances for microbiological contamination on a small number of GWSs. In this day and age given the level of treatment and funding available to the sector, such failures are unacceptable and can be avoided through the proper operation and management of disinfection systems.

The formation of trihalomethanes (THMs) has also been highlighted on a number of schemes. While many of these issues are being addressed through infrastructural investment and/or treatment process optimisation, appropriate network management remains essential to avoid THM formation in the distribution network.

In addition to the specific areas of the NFGWS QA system mentioned, workshops provided an opportunity for GWSs to discuss their operational practices and share experiences with others.

Many GWSs used this opportunity to learn from others and also share problems and concerns with fellow GWSs and the NFGWS. Another area covered during discussions was GWS future-planning. Each GWS was asked to soon discuss and explore the most sustainable management options for their scheme with their own GWS committee and members.

Topics discussed included committee succession, potential amalgamation and rationalisation, and the importance of professional operational management. Discussions were also had around GWS governance arrangements and ways to encourage new members to become involved in their local GWS.

Risk management

Each workshop opened with a discussion around the Recast Drinking Water Directive and how it requires a risk-based approach to providing drinking water.

Every scheme will be tasked with assessing the risks on its supply from catchment to consumer. Once risks are assessed and evaluated, they must be managed through the development of control procedures, monitoring, and data evaluation.

It was encouraging to see that a large number of GWSs were already following a risk-based approach through the implementation of the QA system, but many can do more in this area. Refresher QA training remains available to schemes and it was clear from some of the new faces in attendance that many GWSs intend on availing of these courses over the coming period.

When focusing on CCP5 (distribution network), the recently published NFGWS training video on unidirectional flushing was played and discussed as a visual aid for learning.

There was much debate on the practical process of conducting an effective flushing programme, with many GWSs sharing their experiences, challenges, and how they were overcome.

Further workshops are being considered in counties with large numbers of GWSs to ensure maximum participation.

This article originally featured in the most recent edition of the Rural Water News magazine. To read the full edition and to sign up to our magazine mailing list, click here.