Solving Small Community Drinking Water Challenges


North Vancouver, BC    


Approximately 6 million Canadians are serviced by small drinking water systems, which are subject to 77% of the nation’s boil water advisories. After working with communities struggling with these issues, WSP approached researchers at RES’EAU-WaterNET to investigate and pilot test an innovative organics removal process researched at the University of British Columbia and specifically created for small and remote communities. The goal was to assess the viability of using a biologically-enhanced ion exchange media to remove organics from surface water. This approach would require little to no chemical addition, minimize the production of harmful wastewater, and reduce operator oversight by using natural biological processes. A ground-breaking treatment system, coined biological ion exchange (BIEX) was developed. It harnesses the source water’s natural biological elements to provide treatment. By combining a new treatment technology and a collaborative project implementation approach, this work culminated in the world’s first BIEX treatment plant and enabled the pilot community of Dzitl’lainli (Middle River), from the Tl’azt’en Nation in British Columbia, to lift its 14-year boil water advisory. Innovations developed and applied towards solving the water supply problems of the Middle River village can benefit numerous remote and small communities across Canada. The project was supported and funded by Indigenous Services Canada and the technological advances WSP led will ultimately improve environmental conditions and sustainability – alongside citizens’ lives, community, and prosperity. For the juror, the simple and affordable solution proposed in this project was technically ingenious. The members of the jury applauded the transformational nature of this solution, the close collaboration between all parties and respect for the community. They expressed how this project is a shining example of how the engineering sector should work with First Nations communities.

Press release
Canadian Consulting Engineer article