Some national drinking water guidelines provide guidance on how to define ‘safe’ drinking water. Regarding microbial water quality, a common position is that the chance of an individual becoming infected by some reference waterborne pathogen (e.g. Cryptsporidium) present in the drinking water should <10−4 in any year. However the instantaneous levels of risk to a water consumer vary over the course of a year, and waterborne disease outbreaks have been associated with shorter-duration periods of heightened risk. Performing probabilistic microbial risk assessments is becoming commonplace to capture the impacts of temporal variability on overall infection risk levels. A case is presented here for adoption of a shorter-duration reference period (i.e. daily) infection probability target over which to assess, report and benchmark such risks. A daily infection probability benchmark may provide added incentive and guidance for exercising control over short-term adverse risk fluctuation events and their causes. Management planning could involve outlining measures so that the daily target is met under a variety of pre-identified event scenarios. Other benefits of a daily target could include providing a platform for managers to design and assess management initiatives, as well as simplifying the technical components of the risk assessment process.

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