Continuity of Operations Planning for Drinking Water Systems

Maintaining continuity of operation and water service during a flu pandemic can become a very real challenge, especially for utilities with a small number of operators. This may be particularly critical for very small systems that have only one operator. Pre-planning and knowing where to obtain assistance can help maintain continuity of operation for even the smallest drinking water systems. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides continuity of operations information and training.

Continuity of Operations Plan

All New York State utilities are urged to prepare a COOP. There are many checklists and plan formats that utilities can use to formalize planning for continuity of operations. Some of these are available through the Pandemic Flu Information for Water Utilities web page. COOPs will vary to meet individual utility needs, and typically have steps to:

  • Identify essential utility services, functions and processes
  • Review equipment and chemicals needed
  • Identify workers and skills needed to operate
  • Identify actions to protect and sustain essential workforce
  • Identify alternative sources for chemicals, materials, and human resources
  • Prepare to sustain services for up to 12 weeks with reduced workforce

Standard Operating Procedures

SOPs can help maintain continuity of operations by helping qualified, outside operators to run a water system that they are not completely familiar with. But SOPs only work if prepared in advance. SOP templates designed for small water systems are available from the New York Rural Water Association.

Mutual Aid

Mutual aid from neighboring utilities can help provide the expertise needed to overcome a shortage of operators. In New York State, mutual aid can be available through membership in the utility-run New York Water and Waste Water Agency Response Network system. See Mutual Aid for more information .

Technical Assistance

Technical assistance to address operational problems, help run systems for short periods, or train an unfamiliar operator may be needed in response to an emergency. Technical assistance may be available through mutual aid, county or district health offices, or New York Rural Water Association's free technical assistance and circuit rider programs. See Technical Assistance for Drinking Water Systems for more information.