Application of ADWG to Trains – An Organisational Reform


People think of drinking water applications involving water provided through fixed infrastructure and buried distribution systems. A major regional rail operator identified issues with its approach to the provision of drinking water on trains. The operator embarked on a drinking water management reform which included the development of a Drinking Water Management System (DWMS) meeting the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG), the modification of fixed infrastructure in multiple regional locations, the implementation of a sampling and maintenance program across over 80 rail cars, a state-wide training program and the establishment of a maintenance information system to underpin the DWMS.

Services Offered

  • Gap analysis and options assessment
  • DWMS design
  • DWMS implementation including
    • the installation of 7 tanks in regional locations to provide potable water that met the ADWG across the entire train journey
    • change management with frontline staff, including the upskilling of onboard and station staff with Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) competencies
    • changes to the maintenance program for stations
    • the deployment of operational and verification monitoring supported by new test equipment
    • the implementation of a maintenance information system (MIS) to provide assurance that monitoring was conducted in accordance with the DWMS and to ensure that onsite testing equipment was properly maintained.


An audit was undertaken on the supply of water used for drinking, showering and food preparation after a regional rail operator received a number of customer complaints. The audit comprised a full management system and physical infrastructure audit of trains and maintenance facilities and identified significant gaps in the infrastructure and management system, including:

  • Unsanitary storage of drinking water equipment
  • Degraded infrastructure
  • A lack of procedures for supply of safe drinking water and response to contamination
  • Inadequate maintenance
  • Poor awareness of water quality risks, including Naegleria Fowleri in water used for showering.

These were assessed using risk-based prioritisation and an improvement plan was presented to management and formed the justification for a broader Drinking Water Management System (DWMS) improvement project.


The regional locations presented a significant logistical challenge from not only an implementation perspective but also a maintenance and support perspective. The solution had to meet occupational health and safety requirements and heritage requirements. It also had to be supportable. The combination of these factors made the use of an automated chlorine dosing system impractical as there were organisational concerns about handling liquid chlorine and even bigger challenges being able to maintain the automated system using railway station staff in remote locations.

As a result, a more maintainable and supportable solution was chosen. The solution comprised small tanks that could be incorporated into the local environment and manually dosed with chlorine, which could be sourced locally. Monitoring via the combination of an online chlorine analyser and an MIS, including mobile capability, was implemented specifically to support the DWMS. Railway station staff were given training in two AQF competencies, enabling them to perform testing and chlorination tasks. The maintenance of the equipment was also established in the MIS.


The project had a significant impact on both the drinking water and the level of assurance that the management system provided, including:

  • Adoption of a drinking water policy.
  • For the first time, one tanking location achieved chlorine levels consistently over 0.2 mg/L.
  • The organisation was able to respond definitively to customer complaints. In one example, a customer complained about black residue coming from the drinking water fountain on the train. The higher levels of awareness meant the crew not only reported the event in the maintenance information system but also kept the cup and took photos allowing root cause to be established within two days. The cause was found to be a maintenance error following a scheduled filter change.
  • Train sampling identified consistent issues with low levels of chlorine in water. This data was provided to the maintenance sub-contractor for rectification.