Without the planning of non-technical issues, water treatment plants may face challenges in sustaining safe drinking water. Parameters such as the planning of financial resources, human resources, a lack of professional process controllers, poor working conditions, staff shortages and a lack of appropriate training of process controllers contribute to the underperformance of drinking water treatment plants. This study aimed at applying the Diagnostic Tool for Non-Technical Compliance to assess the compliance of small drinking water plants with management norms. Six water treatments (Vondo water scheme, Malamulele, Mutshedzi, Mutale regional water treatment plant, Tshedza and Tshedza package plant) were selected from the Vhembe district municipality of the Limpopo province in South Africa. From the abovementioned non-technical parameters, the results showed that during the first assessment period (August 2008 and June 2009) selected water treatment plants scored between 53% and 68% and fell under Class 2, indicating serious challenges requiring attention and improvement. During the second assessment period (November and December 2010), a slight improvement was observed as all plants scored between 72% and 80%, falling under the Class 2 category. Even after corrective actions and remeasurement, none of the plants met the compliance standards, which range from 90% to 100% to obtain the Class 1 compliance standard. The study recommended that tactical and strategic plans that clearly define the operational procedures, process controlling, financial planning, maintenance culture, emergency preparedness and regular monitoring and evaluation should be entrenched for the smooth running of the small water treatment plants. Furthermore, all water services providers and water services authorities should apply the diagnostic tools as developed, which provides guidance on a stepwise procedure on plant operations and management on a daily basis.
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