Step 3 – Plan

After your source water assessment is complete, the next step is to prepare your response plan.

A response plan is a living document that clearly outlines the actions needed to manage drinking water threats and track progress. Collaborate with your TAC to refine and categorize the issues and actions from your source water assessment. In doing so, you may find that a variety of issues can be addressed through overarching solutions, including programs dedicated to education and engagement (TOOL 4), land use planning and management (TOOL 3), or monitoring (TOOL 8). A great example to look at is the Regional District of Nanaimo Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Action Plan.

The steps for preparing a response plan are presented in Table 3 and a response plan template is provided. This template has a ‘demonstration example’ tab to give you an idea of how to use the template and what a response plan can look like.

Table 3: Steps to prepare a Source Water Protection Response Plan

Set goals & objectives

For each goal, develop objectives with a list of associated actions that show how you will achieve those goals. Plan S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound).

Identify authorities & stakeholders

Collaborate with the TAC you established for your source water assessment and invite others to participate as needed.

Determine & secure resources

Identify staff, finances, data, partners, and other necessary resources required to carry out each action.

Develop budget & timeline

Create a budget and timeline for each action. List obtained and potential funding sources.

Establish metrics of success

Decide how you will you measure success of each action. Use metrics and a monitoring program to measure progress. Think S.M.A.R.T.

Pro Tip: The responses for the high and very high risks are best developed by the stakeholder responsible for that risk – not the water supplier or their consultants. The stakeholder’s responses should include what will be done, how and when it will be done, and an estimated cost. That way, the stakeholder takes ownership for the result and reports back to the TAC.

We all know there will be resistance to change, particularly where expenditures or revenue loss for the next fiscal year(s) is involved. Follow the advice in Table 4 when preparing your source water response plan to turn common planning challenges into successes.

Table 4: How to turn common planning challenges into successes

Actions are planned for too large of an area

Plan actions/mitigations at the sub-catchment scale.

Plan is too long or complex

Keep the response plan S.M.A.R.T (see Table 5). Develop break-out plans for each stakeholder.

Stakeholder involvement and issue ownership / resolution is lacking

Prioritize support for TAC financial commitments to prevent/remediate source water issues.

Plan is not seen as a living document that must be revisited and updated

Adopt a long-term management process, with long-term commitments from stakeholders.

Land use management issues are ignored

Advocate for land use policies, bylaws, and BMPs that protect source water.

Monitoring or knowledge of local response thresholds is lacking

Monitor trends, compare to research elsewhere and use adaptive management strategies.

Your response plan should include measurements and timelines for each of your actions. Consider employing elements from the list below that suit your source water protection project.

Formulate evaluation questions such as:

1) Process evaluation questions to identify planning and implementation issues; they indicate if staff, budget requirements, resources, and management actions are performing as expected while the activity is taking place and after. Example questions:

  • Are actions being implemented correctly, on time, and within budget?
  • Is the intended audience receiving the message?

2) Impact evaluation questions to measure goal attainment; they indicate the environmental and social outcomes of the management actions on short, medium, and long terms. Example questions:

  • Did lakeshore residents adopt landscaping BMPs?
  • Did water quality parameters in the last five years improve from the historical baseline?

3) Context evaluation questions to understand what parts of the plan are working or not; they indicate the function of the management action within the community’s economic, social, and political climate. Example questions:

  • What demographic of the community supported the management action?
  • Did financial or social barriers preclude community members from participation?

4) Determine data needs & collection methods. Quantitative data methods range from water quality sampling, flow measurements, mapping/GIS/LiDAR, and other sampling. Common qualitative data collection methods include interviews, surveys, focus groups, observations, and document review4

5) Set milestones. Define a schedule for implementing and reviewing management actions.

S.M.A.R.T. charts abound. Table 5 has been custom developed for source water protection TACs. You can refer to it throughout your source protection process.

Table 5: Guide for S.M.A.R.T source water protection processes



Define expectations. Avoid generalities. This isn’t an explicit how-to, but make sure to answer the following:
WHO – who needs to be involved?
WHAT – what exactly are we trying to achieve?
WHEN – set a realistic timeframe
WHERE – decide location of relevant event
WHICH – determine key obstacles or requirements
WHY – define the reason for the goal



What metrics are planned to meet the goal, track progress, and measure success? Set milestones. How can we measure the cost benefit of achieving the goal? Can we estimate the cost-consequence of inaction? Can the data be used to assess environmental thresholds?



Keep challenging goals within reason. Are new skills required and achievable? Are changing attitudes required? Does the team have capacity and resources? Are tasks assignable? Identify what is beyond the team’s control.



Link the goals to the broader community needs. Consider impact on neighbours. Make sure the goal is ethical and positively stated. Consider historical context (three generations before use), our generation, and our legacy (three generations after us). How can the team keep the goal and its context in view?



Set a realistic target date or set a realistic timeframe for the goal. Is there a deadline? How will it be tracked?

Pro Tip: Do not set too many projects within a goal even if they are all individually attainable.