5 critical factors to meeting deadlines for America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018
September 30, 2020
September 30, 2020
The ins and outs of strengthening your utility for drinking water resiliency
Water systems across the country are being faced with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newly enacted federal law: America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018. AWIA Section 2013 now requires community drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 people to develop or update risk and resilience assessments (RRAs) and emergency response plans (ERPs) every five years.
Why? It’s simple. Planning before disasters strike will help communities maintain critical water supply by identifying potential impacts and actions to prevent loss of service. The law specifies components to be addressed and deadlines for completion. Failure to comply can result in steep fines and even greater disaster impacts.
With deadlines on the horizon, let’s look at what goes into each piece of the AWIA.
The RRA requirement replaces a previous law enacted post-9/11. AWIA broadens the assessment focus from “terrorism and intentional attack” to “natural hazards and malevolent acts.” Critical assets are typically paired with threats and evaluated to understand probability, likelihood, consequences, and deterrents in a comprehensive assessment. So, what needs to be covered?
RRAs may also include evaluation of capital and operational needs. Oftentimes, the seven-step J100 risk assessment methodology is used to understand the utility’s risk portfolio and make decisions when allocating scarce resources towards reducing risk and improving resilience. Ultimately, RRAs should inform risks, vulnerability, and resilience recommendations.
An emergency is typically defined as a situation that arises suddenly that can have considerable negative consequences if fast and effective corrective measures are not taken.
Water utilities—regardless of their size and location—have a legal responsibility to provide clean, safe drinking water, even under emergency conditions. The ability of utility staff to respond rapidly in an emergency helps to prevent unnecessary complications and protect consumers’ health and safety. Rapid response may also save money by preventing damage to water systems.
Utilities need to not just understand the requirements of AWIA, but the intent behind them.
The ERP details strategies, resources, plans, and procedures utilities use to prepare for, and respond to, an incident—natural or man-made—that threatens life, property, or the environment. Incidents can range from small water main breaks or localized flooding to large scale hurricanes, earthquakes, or system contamination. ERPs are traditionally two phases: Preparation and execution.
No later than six months after certifying its risk and resilience assessment, each system must prepare or revise an emergency response plan. The ERP includes:
Having successfully completed both RRAs and ERPs for clients, here are five key factors to meaningful AWIA projects:
On the surface, AWIA is just another requirement. However, on a deeper level it is much more. It is a call for the Water sector to use the process to make defensible, business case-based decisions about how to better manage risk and become a utility capable of providing vital water to its customers during and after disaster events.