Effective risk assessment and risk management approaches in public drinking water systems can benefit from a systematic process for hazards identification and effective management control based on the Water Safety Plan (WSP) concept. Good results from WSP development and implementation in a small number of Portuguese water utilities have shown that a more ambitious nationwide strategic approach to disseminate this methodology is needed. However, the establishment of strategic frameworks for systematic and organic scaling-up of WSP implementation at a national level requires major constraints to be overcome: lack of legislation and policies and the need for appropriate monitoring tools. This study presents a framework to inform future policy making by understanding the key constraints and needs related to institutional, organizational and research issues for WSP development and implementation in Portugal. This methodological contribution for WSP implementation can be replicated at a global scale. National health authorities and the Regulator may promote changes in legislation and policies. Independent global monitoring and benchmarking are adequate tools for measuring the progress over time and for comparing the performance of water utilities. Water utilities self-assessment must include performance improvement, operational monitoring and verification. Research and education and resources dissemination ensure knowledge acquisition and transfer.
Keywords: drinking water quality, risk management, strategic planning, Water Safety Plan