Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolbox Released

This new toolbox will help water systems, and those that support them, work through the planning and preparation, issuance, and follow-up for a drinking water advisory.  The toolbox provides advice for formal regulatory actions as well as responses to some other type of incident in the water system that requires public communication.  The tools presented here were adapted from highly rated examples already used by utilities, states, and others to respond to real world situations.  While the toolbox can guide water systems through the necessary steps to issue an advisory on their own, it also stresses the need for collaboration, with not only state primacy agencies, but also local health departments and other entities that need to be a part of the planning, implementation, and post event evaluation.

The Toolbox focuses on water systems and addresses the spectrum of situations that generate drinking water advisories.  Drinking water advisories cover a wide range of situations with varying degrees of severity, ranging from impending construction to main breaks, boil water notices, and chemical contamination. With this toolbox, utilities can be better prepared for crisis communications and comply more confidently with mandatory advisories required by state and federal law.

A technical workgroup of public health and drinking water agencies and drinking water system experts, including states, advised and guided the project.  The project also engaged a broad cross-section of stakeholders and technical experts including local government, emergency response, and hazard communication experts.  They found that advisory terminology, agency responsibilities, and implementation details vary widely from state to state. This toolbox is intended to overcome those disparities and be a consistent guide for use nationally, recognizing that for mandatory advisories, local requirements must still be met.

This project was a collaborative effort of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Water Works Association (AWWA), Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), and ASDWA.

The CDC’s page on water related emergencies can be found HERE.

ASDWA will be providing additional information to states in the near future to help them make effective use of the toolbox to assist their water systems.