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Drinking water protection is a patchwork, unreliable system of regulations and weak guidelines across Canada.

The countrys first drinking water report card shows just how hit-and-miss those protections are from province to province. CUPE helped launch the Sierra Legal Defence Fund report card, which assigns a D grade or worse to five jurisdictions. The highest grade is only a B, highlighting the urgent need for stronger regulation and better funding.

Grades were assigned based on a survey of provincial and territorial laws and guidelines for protecting drinking water sources such as watersheds and wellfields, as well as water treatment and testing procedures and public reporting requirements.

The findings are stark. Most provinces havent taken strong steps to protect watersheds the first link in the water treatment chain. If water were protected from pollution at its source, treating and delivering clean water would be that much easier. Testing requirements are a patchwork in terms of frequency and what tests look for, and support for well-trained, certified workers is non-existent in many regions.

The report also highlights crumbling water infrastructure, calling for increased federal funding to upgrade and build water treatment facilities.

The need for strong federal leadership in ensuring safe water is another crucial point in the report. Along with funding infrastructure, that means setting rules.

The current federal drinking water quality guidelines set out limits on many contaminants but they dont have the force of law. The report calls on the federal government to set minimum, enforceable standards.