International Cooperation

Protecting Drinking Water Quality through Promotion of Water Safety Plans

Water Safety Plans (WSP) were introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 3rd edition of the Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality (2004)Exit as a health-based, risk assessment approach to managing drinking water quality that:

  • Identifies and prioritizes potential threats to water quality at each step in the water supply chain for a specific drinking water system; and,
  • Implements best practices to mitigate those threats and ensure drinking water quality. 

EPA began promoting Water Safety Plans (WSPs) to help partner countries improve drinking water quality in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and, more recently, Africa.

Recent News

The International Water Association (IWA), in cooperation with EPA, provided a Water Safety Plan training to Ghana Water Company, Ltd and other stakeholders in Accra in April 2016. As part of the program, EPA lab experts provided presentations on how laboratory capacity fits into Water Safety Plan development, Quality Systems, and Traceability. This training supports EPA’s work to build laboratory capacity in West Africa.

Initial Efforts

EPA’s WSP efforts began in Latin American and the Caribbean.  In response to the devastation from Hurricane Mitch (October 1998), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began work addressing drinking water issues in Central America. The hurricane had caused severe damage to the region.  The four components of EPA’s Hurricane Mitch activities were: 

  1. laboratory capacity building; 
  2. drinking water treatment plant optimization; 
  3. source water protection; and
  4. safe drinking water program development. 
Intake at Spanish Town Treatment Plant in Spanish Town, Jamaica. 2006.
Following visits to El Salvador, Nicaragua and El Salvador, EPA developed EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Program in Central America, to address the negative health effects from poor drinking water quality affecting the population. The plan focused on achieving improvements in drinking water quality by improving the capacity of institutions (particularly the water utilities and the ministries of health) which are responsible for providing safe drinking water in targeted rural and key urban/periurban areas in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. 
EPA's key partner in these efforts was the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Exit which provided training and expertise to the affected countries through its technical center in Lima, Peru.

An initial demonstration WSP was piloted in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 2006, in partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Subsequently, other nations in Latin America and Central America including Brazil, Bolivia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guyana all began developing WSPs, either on their own or with support from PAHO, CDC, and EPA.

Subsequent WSPs supported by EPA took place in India and are currently being implemented in Africa through a partnership with IWA.  

Useful Links

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For additional information on EPA's international cooperation on water issues, contact:
Stephanie Adrian
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6444