Water security . . . it’s a term that encompasses—and in some way expands—water resource management. To be “water secure” means that your city, state, country, or community has enough potable water to meet the needs of the population. And as we all know, every day our water security is threatened by population growth, drought, urbanization, pollution, and overuse and over-utilization of water sources. And as demand continues to increase, tensions between upstream, and downstream users will mount. It's an oft-repeated refrain that future wars will not be waged over oil . . . they will be waged over water.
Mark Twain allegedly declared, “Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting over”, but ultimately water security is more than just preparing for actions by your water-starved (or water-greedy) neighbors, it’s about making sure that you’re ready for any kind of disruption, be it mother nature or human sabotage.
Of course, some responsibility for water security rests on the shoulders of water consumers. The Department of Homeland Security suggests that, in the event of a wide-scale disaster, individual households plan for the possibility that water will not be available. That means keeping a 10-day supply stored securely, or 20 gallons for an average two-person household. Of course we all know that it’s unlikely most water customers are actually storing that amount of water, but we can say for certain that water purveyors must be prepared for any eventuality. As with any widespread disruption of service, the first priority will be to get the system back online as soon as possible.
In “The Large Water System Emergency Response Plan,” EPA outlines a set of emergency guidelines for large water systems for water purveyors before, during, and after a crisis.
Some of the most important aspects of the plan include:
* The Development of a documented Emergency Response Plan (ERP)
* The creation of a Vulnerability Assessment
* Identification of Alternative Water Sources
* Chain-of-Command Chart (coordinated with the local emergency planning committee)
* Communication Procedures (who, what, when, as well as access to “system-specific information” about personnel and external parties like emergency first responders and notification procedures)
* Property and equipment assessment and protection
* Training, exercises, and drills
* Emergency Action Procedures and Incident-Specific Action Procedures
So what do you think? Does emergency and disaster planning get enough attention? And even though our water resources are perpetually in a state of crisis due to drought, waste, and mismanagement, should part of any resource management plan account for unanticipated, catastrophic events?