Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on December 10, 2020
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on February 3, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on April 30, 2021


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the development of emergency plans by both public (at all levels of government) and private water providers to prevent or minimize the disruption of water service to residences, businesses, and government during emergencies. Emergency plans must be developed to minimize the risk of water supply disruption due to any cause, including a natural disaster, a failure of the community water system, construction damage, or an act of terrorism, and should:

  • Partake in regional overall review of water systems, which verifies the water provider has an emergency plan and has made provisions for emergency service;
  • Identify vulnerabilities in existing water systems;
  • Include emergency response and mitigation action components;
  • Be subject to periodic reviews and updates;
  • Identify sources of funding for implementing emergency plans;
  • Encourage resilience and sustainability in the design criteria of new, modified and replacement water systems; and
  • Integrated the plans of neighboring water utilities avoid competition for resources and to ensure mutual aid when needed.

Additionally, adequate funding should be provided for implementing these emergency plans.


While water-providing organizations are fundamentally responsible for development of such plans, stakeholders should also be involved. All levels of government should encourage and coordinate such planning and provide technical assistance to water providers in the development of emergency plans. Emergencies often impact other utility providers whose ability to operate during emergencies may be impaired, it is important to coordinate mitigation measures and emergency response with these providers as and local emergency management planners. Where possible, such plans should include water-sharing between providers, on a regional basis, to reduce individual risk and improve resilience.

Specific vulnerabilities in maintaining services during emergencies should be identified in existing water systems and incorporated into emergency plans. Measures to prevent service disruption should be an essential part of the plan. Plans should assess risks and prepare 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 ensure resilience, equity, and continuation of service during an emergency. Such planning will require examination of long range solutions that involve capital investments; inter agency agreements; short-term response measures; and issues of risk and vulnerability of sources, treatment plants and transmission systems.

Design of new, modified and replacement water systems should incorporate resilience for disaster events. Planning for building supplementary sources of supply, redundant transmission mechanisms, emergency water distribution, or arranging for resource sharing can involve significant investments and long lead times. Advanced planning by water providers will help to mitigate impacts to their systems and disruptions to service in the event of such situations.

On October 23, 2018, the 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 possibilities of service interruptions through loss of the physical integrity of water systems becomes more significant as systems age or are exposed to natural hazards and malevolent acts. Since some emergencies are likely to require a 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.

This policy has worldwide application.
ASCE Policy Statement 348
First Approved in 1989