Water Resiliency - Prepare


Preparing for an all-hazards incident entails honing the organization’s people, policies, and procedures to face the incident.  It means conducting training and exercises and reviewing and updating policies and procedures.  It means practicing the 4 Cs – communicate, coordinate, cooperate, and collaborate with all partners and stakeholders.  It means assessing the risks and resilience of the water/wastewater entity and composing and exercising the emergency response plan.

Prepare for an incident involves updating and exercising your emergency response plans, continuity plan, crisis and emergency communications plan.  Conduct and participate in tabletop exercises.

EPA offers much guidance and tools aimed at helping the water sector increase its resilience:

Training and Exercise

DDW can conduct training on several topics useful for public water systems to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from all-hazards and in responding to incidents ranging in scope from an MCL failure or natural disaster to a terrorism incident. Please contact the security staff to schedule training for your group.

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC)

CERC - Effective communication to customers during a drinking water system crisis or emergency is just as critical to emergency response operations as the actual physical response. During an emergency situation, response operations and community relations can sometimes clash because of poor communication. A poorly managed crisis can damage an organization's credibility and potentially expose that organization to costly litigation. Effectively communicating response actions, possible health effects and controlling rumors can be a powerful tool that can enhance emergency operations and create a more productive response.

DDW, in collaboration with the California/Nevada Section AWWA, the Bay Area Emergency and Security Information Collaborative (BAESIC), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the California Rural Water Association (CRWA), and other selected water utilities has developed a Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Tool Kit (PDF) for community water systems. The Tool Kit is a complimentary resource that should be used in conjunction with a water system's emergency response plan. The project was jointly funded by grants from USEPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was adapted from a guidance document, with the same name, developed for local public health departments to respond to possible bioterrorism events.

The Tool Kit (PDF) provides detailed resource materials to assist in effectively managing and communicating during an emergency or crisis. It is specifically designed to support writing and implementing a crisis communication plan. Knowing when to communicate during a crisis or emergency is just as important as knowing what to communicate. Specific guidelines and instructions for communicating during an emergency are provided in the Tool Kit, which offers information and techniques to assist in:

  • Customizing communication resources for your water agency
  • Informing and protecting the public during an emergency
  • Communicating clearly with law enforcement officials, public health departments, and other officials in an emergency
  • Engaging partners/stakeholders to best support communication responses
  • Collaborating with local public and environmental health, law enforcement, fire, and other first responders in the planning process
  • Effectively coordinating emergency risk communication plans under California's Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS)
  • Working with California's diverse population

Templates from the Tool Kit for use by water systems are available here (ZIP).

Along with the Tool Kit, a workbook is being developed by DDW that will contain forms and brief descriptions of guidelines that can be used by water systems as a basic risk communication plan. That workbook is the focus of workshops that will be offered by the DDW to water systems on risk communication plan development. (The workbook will be posted on this website when it is available.) A number of CERC templates for use by water systems are available here.

Please contact the security staff to schedule a workshop for your area.

General Water System Security Checklist

DDW has created a general checklist (PDF) of security issues that every water system should consider and implement.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA)

On October 23, 2018, America's Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) was signed into law. AWIA Section 2013 requires community (drinking) water systems serving more than 3,300 people to develop or update risk assessments and emergency response plans (ERPs). The law specifies the components that the risk assessments and ERPs must address and establishes deadlines by which water systems must certify to EPA completion of the risk assessment and ERP.

AWIA supersedes the Title IV of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act). The vulnerability assessments are now greater than 10 years old.  The EPA intends to retire the vulnerability assessments. Utilities may request the EPA return their vulnerability assessments in lieu of destruction. If utilities wish their documents returned, they may submit a letter to the EPA by email.

Information, guidance, and training opportunities on AWIA can be found at the following links:

Whenever a public water system updates its ERP, a copy needs to be sent to the appropriate Division of Drinking Water District Office (PDF).

The DDW's ERP Guidelines assist drinking water systems that serve more than 1,000 service connections in updating their ERPs and provide detailed information for emergency response requirements in California. Please contact SWRCB DDW Water Security Staff, if any questions.
Excerpts from SWRCB DDW's ERP Guidelines that can be used and modified to make specific to the water system (note that updated Templates for Public Notification can be found here):

These documents may be periodically updated, please check this site for the most current version.

These ERP and action plan templates (ZIP) were developed by CH2MHill for our ERP Workshops to assist water systems in completing their ERPs. The templates give water systems standard operations procedures without starting from scratch for many emergency situations:

  • AP 1A - Threat of or Actual Contamination to Water System POSSIBLE STAGE
  • AP 1B - Threat of or Actual Contamination to Water System CREDIBLE STAGE
  • AP 1C - Contamination to Water System CONFIRMED STAGE
  • AP 2 - Structural Damage from Explosive Device
  • AP 3 - Employee Assaulted with Weapon (Armed Intruder)
  • AP 4 - SCADA Security
  • AP 5 - IT Security
  • AP 6 - Chlorine Release
  • AP 7 - Power Outage
  • AP 8A - Natural Event (Flood)
  • AP 8B - Natural Event (Winter Storm)
  • AP 8C - Natural Event (Hurricane/Tropical Storm)
  • AP 8D - Natural Event (Earthquake)
  • AP 9 - Water Supply Interruption
  • AP 10A - Bomb Threat (Telephone/ In Person)
  • AP 10B - Bomb Threat (Suspicious Package / Letter)
  • AP 10C - Bomb Threat (Written Threat Received)

Small Water System Resiliency Information

The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 has superseded the Bio-Terrorism Act of 2002 and water systems need to follow the new requirements.  The EPA guidance for small water systems can be found here - https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-05/documents/guidance_for_small_community_water_systems_on_risk_and_resilience_assessments_under_awia_final.pdf.

Information, guidance, and training opportunities for small water systems can be found here - https://www.epa.gov/waterresilience/small-system-risk-and-resilience-assessment-checklist

For the small water systems serving populations of  3,301-49,999, the deadline to submit their risk and resilience assessment self-certification is June 30, 2021 - https://www.epa.gov/waterresilience/americas-water-infrastructure-act-risk-assessments-and-emergency-response-plans.  The guidance states that small water systems serving 3300 population or less are encouraged to follow processes in AWIA –

“CWSs serving 3,300 or fewer people are not required to conduct risk and resilience assessments under AWIA. EPA recommends, however, that very small CWSs use this or other guidance to learn how to conduct risk and resilience assessments and address threats from malevolent acts and natural hazards that threaten safe drinking water.”

The AWIA states that EPA will be providing guidance for the small water systems serving 3300 population or less – soon –

‘‘(e) GUIDANCE TO SMALL PUBLIC WATER SYSTEMS.—The Administrator shall provide guidance and technical assistance to community water systems serving a population of less than 3,300 persons on how to conduct resilience assessments, prepare emergency response plans, and address threats from malevolent acts and natural hazards that threaten to disrupt the provision of safe drinking water or significantly affect the public health or significantly affect the safety or supply of drinking water provided to communities and individuals.”

DDW also has a sample ERP for use by water systems (Word)...(PDF)

Additional Workshops

To assist small public water systems with <3,300 population, DDW has a contract with Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) to conduct workshops to provide education and information for small water systems, including developing and updating ERPs. The information in these workshops is targeted to small water systems. They are free of charge.

For more information on registration and workshop content, contact RCAC'

Michael Boyd
by phone at: (308) 641-2807
or by e-mail at: MBoyd@rcac.org

Climate Resilience and Adaptation

The Waterboards is concerned over the effects of climate change on public water systems such that it adopted a resolution requiring a proactive approach to climate change in all Board actions, including drinking water regulation, water quality protection, and financial assistance -
RESOLUTION NO. 2017-0012 - COMPREHENSIVE RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE In effort to provide awareness of the effects of climate change on public water systems and the resilience and adaptation measures being planned and implemented, the Waterboards provides the information and interpretation at this site – Climate Resiliency Visualizations

Water Infrastructure Security Enhancement (WISE) Guidance

To address the question of “How much security measures do I employ”, the collaboration among partners including the USEPA, ASCE, EWRI, and AWWA developed the WISE Guidance.