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Policy Statement 348 - Emergency and Risk Management by Water Providers

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on March 31, 2011

Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May13, 2011

Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 30, 2011



The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the development of emergency plans by water providers to prevent or minimize the disruption of service during emergencies.  Such emergency planning must address resilience, mitigation, and emergency response measures to minimize the risk of water supply disruption due to any cause, whether naturally occurring or man-made. 

Such emergency plans should: 

  • Be developed in conjunction with neighboring water utilities in order to ensure mutual aid when needed;   
  • Include routine reviews and updates as required; and  
  • Incorporate resilience and sustainability in design of new, modified, and replacement water systems



While the fundamental responsibility for development of such plans rests with the water-providing organization, stakeholders should be involved.  Where possible, such plans should include water-sharing between providers, on a regional basis, to reduce individual risk.  Federal and state governments should encourage such planning and provide technical assistance to water providers in the development of such plans.  Since emergencies often impact other utility providers whose ability to operate may be impaired simultaneously, it is important to coordinate mitigation and response with these providers as well as with local emergency management planners.

Measures to prevent service disruption should be an essential part of the plan. Plans should assess risks and plan for emergencies in a way that provides equitable distribution of risk and resources throughout the service area.  Response plans should be tested periodically to ensure that they are meeting current needs and that personnel are prepared to implement them.  Potential problems should be identified and dealt with in advance to achieve equity and continuation of service during an emergency. Such planning will require examination of long‑range solutions that involve capital investment or inter‑agency agreements, short-term response measures, and issues of risk and vulnerability of sources, treatment plants and transmission systems.

Water providers must be prepared to meet situations in which supply, treatment and power supply capabilities are suddenly threatened.  Design of new, modified and replacement water systems must incorporate resilience.  Planning for building supplementary sources of supply, redundant transmission mechanisms, emergency water distribution, or arranging for resource‑sharing can involve significant investment and long lead times.  Advance planning by water providers will help to mitigate impacts to their systems and disruption to service in the event of such situations.



The possibilities of service interruption through loss of the physical integrity of water systems becomes more significant as systems age or are exposed to natural disasters such as droughts, floods, earthquakes, landslides and hurricanes.  In addition, the vulnerability of water supply systems to terrorist attack, leading either to physical destruction of the system or to a contamination event, is a potential risk that has only recently been addressed by most water providers.  Since some emergencies are likely to involve the need to coordinate with other services and utilities, the plans should be developed jointly with other public and quasi-public organizations that are likely to be impacted by an emergency 


ASCE Policy Statement 348 

First Approved in 1989