Community-Based Water Resilience: Keep Vital Services Flowing

Community-Based Water Resilience: Keep Vital Services Flowing

Communities rely on water and wastewater services. Approximately 53,000 community water systems in the United States serve more than 300 million Americans, each of whom uses approximately 100 gallons of water per day. An estimated 14,748 publicly owned treatment works provide wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal service to more than 238 million Americans. Whether potable water for drinking and sanitation, or wastewater treatment for environmental release or recycling, water services are the lifeblood of any community. Water services are reliable, so it is easy to not give them a second thought.

Drinking water and wastewater systems are vulnerable to a variety of threats, from contamination to natural disasters, and to challenges, such as aging infrastructure. Even a water main break can result in a boil water advisory.  Or, a major blockage forms, causing untreated sewage to overflow into a community. Incidents like these can make a community painfully aware of their reliance on water services. This is where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Community-Based Water Resiliency (CBWR) resources and tools can help. CBWR helps identify the critical interdependencies between water utilities and other sectors within a community and promotes cross-sector relationships that are essential to create and maintain resiliency.

One step a water utility and community can take together is to host a water emergency workshop. CBWR  includes a Water Resiliency Action Plan Kit, which can be found inside EPA’s Community-Based Water Resiliency Guide. This kit guides a utility and its partners in establishing a multi-discipline workshop planning team to develop and host a community workshop. It includes resources that can be used to prepare for and conduct the workshop: a planning checklist, sample agendas, an invitation list and invitation template, and other useful documents. And the workshops work – Perry Dahlstrom of Golden State Water Company had this to say: “During my 40-year career in the utility sector, I have found that there is great value from collaborating with others. When we work with others, knowledge and past experiences are exchanged and that is where the added value comes from… Please take the opportunity to participate in a Community-Based Water Resiliency workshop and you will be better prepared and be able to provide a higher level of service to the community that you serve.”

To learn more about CBWR, take the Water Sector Interdependencies and Community-Based Water Resiliency Training available from EPA at This 30-minute online training covers the topics of water and wastewater systems interdependencies, scenarios, and EPA’s Community-Based Water Resiliency Guide. The training will increase your awareness of interdependencies and promote proactive community-level preparedness for water-related emergencies. With an increased awareness of relationships between the water and wastewater systems sector and other critical infrastructure sectors, a utility can help its community to successfully prepare for water service interruptions.

US EPA Water Security Division