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Policy Statement 348 - Emergency Plans for Water Supply

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on January 22, 2018 
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018


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, whether naturally occurring or man-made, and should:  

  • Be part of a 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;
  • Encourage resilience and sustainability in design of new, modified and replacement water systems; and
  • Be coordinated with the plans of neighboring water utilities in order to avoid competition for resources and to ensure mutual aid when needed.  


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

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 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 in advance 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 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 must 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.


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 and manmade disasters. 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.

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