EPA Discusses Drinking Water Utility Risk Assessments with Sector Partners

1_rSy2sTO_g0WRbE2BLECiQA(November 14, 2018) - During its quarterly meeting with water sector partners, EPA’s Water Security Division outlined the risk assessment and emergency response plans required of drinking water utilities in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which was signed by President Trump on October 23. The comprehensive Act includes funding stipulations for the state revolving funds and extends the authorization for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).

The Act also revises the 2002 Safe Drinking Water amendment that required one-time vulnerability assessments for drinking water utility.  Drinking water utilities serving more than 3,300 people must conduct a new assessment of risk related to natural hazards and malevolent acts, and also must evaluate the resilience of all physical and cyber systems used by the utility, including conveyance systems, storage facilities, physical barriers, and computer and automated systems. Utilities must also prepare an emergency response plan based on the risk assessment.  The plan should include strategies to reduce risk and procedures for recovering from natural hazards and malevolent acts.

Utilities must certify to EPA that they have completed the risk assessment and emergency response plan, but the assessment and plan do not need to be submitted to the Agency.  The certifications’ due dates depend on utility size, with the first deadline on March 31, 2020 for utilities serving a population of 100,000 or more.  Emergency response plans are due six months after completion of the risk assessment.  There are no penalties for missing the deadlines, but EPA will be working with the states to achieve full compliance.

EPA will be publishing a fact sheet as soon as possible for utilities, and will also be providing technical assistance, especially for smaller utilities.  Although the risk assessment and emergency response plans do not apply to wastewater utilities, NACWA members that are also drinking water providers will need to meet these requirements for this part of their utility. 

Please contact Cynthia Finley, NACWA Director, Regulatory Affairs, with any questions.