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Drinking Water Quality Management Plan Audits

Assuring the supply of safe drinking water

The safety and aesthetic quality of drinking water is critical to protect public health. Some of the most significant risks to consumers of drinking water include contamination by pathogenic microorganisms, which can result in severe and, on occasion, life-threatening diseases.

For these reasons, drinking water service providers must have mechanisms to ensure a consistent approach to safe drinking water.

Drinking Water Quality Management Plans

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) provide a risk management framework to assure the consistent supply of safe drinking water to protect public health and community well-being. It is a legal requirement for Australian water utilities to have an approved Drinking Water Quality Management Plan (DWQMP) that is based on the ADWG framework to demonstrate how they manage the quality of drinking water they provide to communities.

The DWQMP documents the service provider’s risk-based system for managing the quality of drinking water. It is a living document that reflects the requirements of the service provider and can be actioned through the service provider’s day to day activities now and into the future.

The approved DWQMP must be regularly reviewed and audited on either an annual or bi-annual basis by an approved auditor to assess the service provider’s compliance with the DWQMP and its conditions for the operation of the water service provided.

Long-term evaluation of drinking water quality results and audit of drinking water quality management are required to determine whether preventative strategies are effective and whether they are being implemented appropriately. These reviews enable performance to be measured against objectives and help to identify opportunities for improvement.[1]

DWQMP Reviews and Audits

Drinking water service providers must undertake reviews and arrange the audit of their approved Drinking Water Quality Management Plan as two separate activities. Both activities contribute to the continuous improvement of the approved DWQMP.

The purpose of reviewing your approved DWQMP is to ensure the plan remains relevant to the operation of the water service that you provide to your customers.

A review is usually undertaken every four years. It is an assessment of the approved DWQMP to ensure it is accurate and up to date, manages water supply risk, and performs as planned.

A review must be thorough, consider all aspects of the approved DWQMP and be undertaken with the involvement of all relevant internal staff.

In contrast, an Audit assesses and verifies a service provider’s compliance with the approved DWQMP and is completed at least every two years. It is an essential part of the DWQMP process and must be conducted by an independent third-party service provider.

DWQMP Audits

Sophia Dellis, Australian Water Quality Centre (AWQC) Manager Quality and Systems is an Exemplar Global qualified Drinking Water Quality Management System Level 1 Auditor who will:

  • verify accuracy of monitoring and performance data given to the regulator under the plan
  • verify that you have complied with the requirements of your DWQMP during the audit or inspection period
  • assess the relevance of the DWQMP to the drinking water service
  • carry out any follow-up audits or inspections, if necessary, to check to see if action has been taken to remedy any identified deficiencies of the risk management plan
  • undertake any other functions prescribed by the regulations

Benefits of undertaking an audit through the AWQC include:

  • identification of key improvements and gaps
  • provision of independent expert insights and advice from an auditor with extensive water utility experience
  • strengthening of your internal practices and quality control measures
  • provide evidence to varied stakeholders, including customers and the regulator, compliance with regulatory requirements
  • assures stakeholders on the quality of water supplied to consumers through appropriate management of risks
  • demonstrates a culture of continuous improvement.

Scope of Work

The DWQMP audit consists of a ‘desktop’ audit of data that can be conducted off-site and also on-site visits.

During the ‘desktop’ audit, our auditor verifies that your water utility is adhering to all aspects of its Drinking Water Management Plan. To do this, we examine records such as training, policies, procedures, incident management, continual business process improvement, stakeholder relations, maintenance, and instrument calibration documentation.

The site audit consists of visits to your water infrastructure assets such as water treatment plants, storage tank, and dosing units.

Auditable elements.

These are the requirements in the DWQMP, which the drinking water service provider must be able to demonstrate to our auditor to show that they have complied with the legislative obligations (within the scope of the audit).

The auditable elements to be assessed are outlined in Table 1. Auditable Elements

Elements to be auditedDetails of the assessment for each element
Data accuracy Our auditor will verify the accuracy of the monitoring data given to regulator as outlined in the approved DWQMP. This should include, but is not limited to:
  • verification data generated as per the approved DWQMP
  • data provided in the DWQMP (annual) report
  • data provided to the regulator as part of a periodic reporting condition.

For example, our auditor may verify the data by comparing the laboratory data for a specific period of time with data in your records over the same period.

Compliance with the DWQMP

Our auditor must assess your compliance with the approved DWQMP. This should include, but is not limited to:

  • the implementation of preventive measures for managing hazards and hazardous events (including those applied in the distribution/reticulation network) as described in the DWQMP
  • the implementation of operational and maintenance procedures (including instrument calibration) as referenced and/or described in the DWQMP, including availability and currency of the procedures
  • the implementation of the process for managing incidents and emergencies as described in the DWQMP, including reporting requirements to the regulator
  • the implementation of the operational (including critical control points, as relevant), and verification monitoring programs as described in the DWQMP
  • the implementation of the risk management improvement program or improvement DWQMP as described in the DWQMP
  • whether the service provider is maintaining records, using the systems described in the DWQMP
DWQMP conditions

Our auditor must assess your compliance with the DWQMP conditions. This should include, but is not limited to, assessment of whether you are:

  • reporting incidents in relation to events that are beyond the control of the service provider and have the potential to impact public health and for failing to meet water quality criteria as defined in the approval notice, and whether preventative measures taken were adequate to control the hazard.
  • adhering to provisions and conditions of the approval notice.


Our must assess your DWQMP’s relevance to the service provider’s drinking water service. This should include, but is not limited to, assessment of whether the:

  • service description and details of infrastructure (including process flow diagrams,) in the DWQMP reflect the current circumstances for each scheme
  • catchment characteristics and water quality information in the DWQMP reflect the current circumstances for each scheme
  • risk assessment and risk management measures (including choice of critical control points and limits) in the DWQMP reflect the current circumstances for each scheme, including the outcomes from any incident management which required a change to the preventive measures and from implementation of the RMIP program
  • operational and verification monitoring in the DWQMP reflect the current circumstances for each scheme.

Our Lead Auditor

Sophia Dellis - Manager Quality and Systems

Sophia is responsible for managing and improving the AWQC Business Quality Management System ensuring ongoing compliance to ISO 9001 certification and ISO 17025 NATA accreditation, incorporating OHS&W and Environmental Management and all Corporate requirements. She is also responsible for ensuring the maintenance and improvement of Laboratory Services' key business systems to achieve efficiency improvements, meet customer requirements, and support business growth initiatives.

Sophia has over 14 years’ experience working in Quality Assurance.

For the past eight years Sophia has worked in the water utilities industry, implementing and maintaining robust quality management systems in accordance to ISO 9001, AS/NZ 4801, ISO 14001 and compliance to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Sophia is a certified Drinking Water Auditor and a Lead Auditor in Quality Management Systems.

As Manager of Quality and Systems at AWQC, Sophia leads a team who are focused on maintaining current accreditation, achieving efficiency improvements and a quality objective of constant improvement.