Puerto Rico Hurricane Response Continues; Utility Assistance May be Needed in Future

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(October 3, 2017) -- As Puerto Rico continues to recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) is assessing their resource needs and priorities.  Over 40 percent of the island’s population is without potable water, and nine of 52 wastewater treatment facilities are operational—19 are non-operational, and the status of others is unknown.   

NACWA has been in regular contact with PRASA and communicated the willingness of other NACWA member utilities to provide assistance when it is requested, which PRASA greatly appreciates.  PRASA will be using the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) – the mutual aid agreement between U.S. states and territories – to request equipment and technical assistance. 

The state Water/Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNs) and EMAC provide the official channels for utilities to help one another in emergency situations. The WARNs performed well in responding to utility needs in Texas, Georgia, Florida, and other states affected by recent hurricanes.  NACWA encourages utilities in these states, and any other utilities that need assistance, to contact NACWA staff, use NACWA’s Engage Forum, or the Utility Executive Peer-to-Peer Forum  with questions about recovery efforts and needs.  NACWA members are ready to assist not only with equipment and personnel, but with knowledge from their own experiences. 

Additionally, as part of WEFTEC this week, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) has set up a special web page where individuals or utilities that want to contribute to hurricane relieve efforts can do so. 

While the current transportation and communication challenges in Puerto Rico may make immediate physical assistance difficult, the need for utility mutual aid will likely continue for a long time.  As the Federal Emergency Management Agency has noted, “Patience is paramount, and the need for volunteers endures. Recovery activities associated with Hurricane Maria will require volunteer engagement for many months and years to come, and the help of many will be required.”