Rural Water - Quarter 3, 2016 - 37
DEPARTMENT: EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Many states have experienced
prolonged periods of abnormally dry or
unusually hot weather that threaten the
availability of water. This trend is projected
to continue. Unlike other hazards, such as
flooding and earthquakes, droughts develop
gradually over months or years-and it may
take an affected community or water utility
just as long, if not longer, to recover.
Droughts can result in significant
economic, social, environmental and water
utility operational impacts, including:
* Loss of water supply.
* Poor source water quality that may affect
treatment and the ability to meet drinking
* Stressed alternative and supplementary
water sources due to high demand by
other drought-affected users.
* Increased demand from customers.
* Increased costs and reduced revenues
related to drought response.
Although drought is usually a prolonged
and slow-moving disaster, impacts can
sometimes escalate suddenly and cause
water supply disruptions in a matter of
weeks. That is why it is crucial for water
utilities to have an emergency response
plan for severe drought conditions in
addition to longer-term strategies to cope
with declining water supplies.
Drought response includes taking
immediate actions to maintain service
to customers by increasing supplies and
reducing water use. This involves ensuring
water for essential services such as medical
care, fire protection and general health and
sanitation. For the purposes of this guide,
drought response actions are taken when a
utility projects that their water supply may
run out within 180 days (6 months).
Once drought conditions have lessened,
utilities can begin drought recovery
activities to restore service to previous
or newly adjusted operating conditions.
These activities may include lifting water
use restrictions, replenishing water supply
sources and regaining financial stability.
Utilities can also explore incorporating new
practices, projects and other mitigation
measures into day-to-day operations to be
less vulnerable to and better prepared for
the next drought.
Drought response plans
Utilities should have a drought response
plan that establishes drought stages,
designates readily identifiable drought
triggers, sets reduction goals, describes
water use restrictions and outlines
enforcement provisions. In many states,
drought response plans are required.
* Develop or review your existing plan.
Are the conservation measures, demand
restrictions and response actions
adequate to respond to current drought
conditions? Is the plan flexible enough to
give your utility and its governing body
the ability to declare a specific drought
stage if unforeseen conditions occur? If
not, you will need to revise your plan.
* Check with local and state government
officials, as well as your wholesale water
providers. Do they have an existing
drought response plan you can leverage,
or do they have requirements for utility
drought response plans?
The following key topics
should be included in your
drought response plan:
* Drought Stages and Triggers. Drought
stages define actions required to
respond during various phases of
drought severity. For example, Stage
1 could be to limit outdoor water use.
Triggers are indicators that activate