Credit: City of Eugene

Contractors complete work on the weirs for Delta Ponds project. The Eugene, Ore., public works department has worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a number of other groups.
Brickwork is in progress at the Charlottesville (Va.) Transfer Center. The center, shown in this artist's rendering, is due to be completed in the fall.

The eight groups were the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, the National Association of Water Companies, the National Rural Water Association, the Association of State Drinking Water Agencies, and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators.

“Hurricane Katrina was a real wake-up call to the whole country,” said AWWA executive director Jack Hoffbuhr. “The water community has a long history of working toward emergency preparedness, and these mutual aid networks are the next step. They will provide rapid, short-term deployment of emergency assistance to any water or wastewater utility affected by either natural or manmade events.”

According to AWWA, Hurricane Katrina caused more than $2.25 billion in damages to public drinking water infrastructure. National water groups responded by facilitating relief donations from their members, manufacturers, consultants, and individuals.

Fulfilling its pledge to the other seven groups, AWWA recently issued a paper, “Utilities Helping Utilities,” that suggested a framework for intrastate mutual aid networks among water utilities. The paper said key elements of a response plan were: a steering committee; pre-event emergency response plans; methods for afflicted utilities to communicate their needs; a single statewide assistance pact that also addressed insurance and liability issues; tools for normal communications among members (such as a Web site); and regularly scheduled meetings and training sessions.

The AWWA paper also explored interstate response initiatives for exchanging resources, using the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) program. EMAC provides the legal framework for states to share resources, personnel, and equipment in response to disasters. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories participate in EMAC.

Separately, the NRWA issued mutual aid guidelines tailored for its rural water company members. It offered as models to the existing associations used by Florida and Texas rural water utilities.

NRWA noted any emergency response system “should be developed based on the needs, unique circumstances, and the matrix of organizations” involved.