Incident Action Checklist - Drought
The actions in this checklist are divided up into three "rip & run" sections and are examples of activities that water and
wastewater utilities can take to: prepare for, respond to and recover from drought. For on-the-go convenience, you can
also populate the "My Contacts" section with critical information that your utility may need during an incident.
Drought Impacts on Water and Wastewater Utilities
Drought is a period of abnormally dry and/or unusually hot weather that is sufficiently prolonged to cause
a serious hydraulic imbalance. Droughts normally develop and end slowly with impacts potentially lasting
several years afterwards. Areas that have experienced a drought are also at an increased risk of flash
flooding because the dry ground cannot effectively absorb rainwater. Droughts in the United States have
caused cascading effects on the water sector that may include, but are not limited to:
Loss of supply (both surface water and groundwater)
Increased demand from customers (e.g., previously
self-supplied communities that cannot meet the demand,
agricultural customers requiring more water for irrigation)
Deterioration of water quality and difficulties complying
with drinking water regulations
Increases in treatment and pumping-related costs
Limited options for accessing other local water
sources through interconnections due to
increased regional demand and water scarcity
Decreased capacity in alternative and supplementary	no/>
sources due to high demand for emergency water by other industries and communities in the drought
affected area
Potential power interruptions due to high energy demand if drought is accompanied with unusually high
Loss of fire suppression capabilities
Possible increased pressure to develop water reuse practices
The following sections outline actions water and wastewater utilities can take to prepare for, respond to and
recover from drought. (Because drought and extreme heat events can coincide, please see the Extreme
Heat Incident Action Checklist for intense heat-specific activities.)
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Example of Water Sector Impacts and Response to Drought
El Paso, Texas Drought Response
El Paso and surrounding areas in West Texas experienced severe drought conditions in 2011 and 2012.
The arid region gets much of its water from snowmelt in the New Mexico and Colorado mountains, which
experienced below-normal snow levels. The other source, southern New Mexico reservoirs, was also at record-
low levels. The water shortage did not significantly impact El Paso's water supply for homes and businesses
because in addition to conservation efforts, more well water and water from a water-desalination plant was used
to augment the shortage.
Since 1963, to adapt to historic shortages, El Paso Water Utilities has supplemented its water supply (100 MGD
capacity plant) with reclaimed water. The utility supplies city parks and other public spaces, construction sites,
and industrial sites with almost 6 million gallons of reclaimed water per day.
Furthermore, El Paso Water Utilities has instituted a number of conservation efforts and incentive programs for
customers, including watering restrictions, general use conservation activities and indoor and outdoor water
efficiency rebates.
Despite the conservation efforts, farmers who rely on water for irrigation and grazing lands were hurt by the
2011-2012 water shortage. The El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 planned to allocate six inches
of water per acre to its customers when the river water was first released from the dam, which is substantially
lower than the previous year's allocation of 42 inches of water per acre, and below the full allocation of 48
inches per acre. The 2014 irrigation allocations are 18 inches per acre, which is still below the full allocation.
In an effort to secure sufficient supply for all customers, the city has purchased about 100,000 acres of land
in outlying areas, acquiring the rights to the water that flows underneath. The utility also is considering future
investment in water pipelines to pump water from supplies that are further away.
Source: El Paso Times, "El Paso - Area farmers to suffer as drought drags on *
Source: El Paso Water Improvement District #1, "Allocation for 2014 Irrigation Season.''
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My Contacts and Resources

Local EMA

State EMA

State Primacy Agency

WARN Chair

Power Utility

•	Drought mapping and outlooks
•	U.S. Drought Monitor (National Drought Mitigation
Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration [NOAA], U.S. Department of
Agriculture [USDA])
•	U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook (NOAA)
•	U.S. Drought Portal (National Integrated Drought
Information System [NIDIS])
•	Drought Resource Community (American Water
Works Association [AWWA])
•	Drought Planning Resources. Bv State (National
Drought Mitigation Center [NDMC])
•	Drought Planning Toolbox (Colorado Water
Conservation Board [CWCB])
•	Drought Ready Communities (NDMC)
•	Fire Weather Outlooks and Forecasting Tools
(National Weather Service [NWS])
•	National Significant Wldland Fire Potential Outlook
(National Interagency Fire Center [NIFC])
•	Planning for an Emergency Drinking Water SuddIv
•	All-Hazard Conseouence Management Planning
for the Water Sector (Water Sector Emergency
Response Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory
Council [CIPAC] Workgroup)
•	Vulnerability Self Assessment Tool (VSAT) (EPA)
•	Preparing for Extreme Weather Events: Workshop
Planner for the Water Sector (EPA)
•	Tabletop Exercise Tool for Water Systems:
Emergency Preparedness. Response, and Climate
Resiliency (EPA)
•	How to Develop a Multi-Year Training and Exercise
rr&E^ Plan (EPA)
•	When Every Drop Counts: Protecting Public Health
During Drought Conditions (Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention [CDC])
•	Water/Wastewater Aoencv Response Network
•	Community Based Water Resiliency (EPA)
Communication with Customers
•	The following resources are examples of
comprehensive outreach materials to encourage
utility customers to conserve water during droughts
and educate them on procedures.
•	WaterSense (EPA)
•	Water Fffir.ienr.y (Portland Water Bureau [PWB])
•	Water Efficiency Tips (Dallas Water Utilities
•	Water Conservation Strategies (Association of
California Water Agencies [ACWA])
•	Drought Management Plan Template for Small
Water Systems (Florida Rural Water Association
Facility and Service Area
•	Water Audit Tool (AWWA)
Documentation and Reporting
•	Federal Funding for Utilities in National Disasters
(Fed FUNDS') (EPA)
•	Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool
•	Adaptation Strategies Guide (EPA)
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Actions to Prepare for a Drought

~	Actively monitor local arid regional drought
~	Review and update your utility's emergency
response plan (ERR), and ensure all emergency
contacts are current.
~	Conduct briefings, training and exercises to
ensure utility staff is aware of all preparedness,
response and recovery procedures.
Identify priority water customers (e.g., hospitals),
obtain their contact information, map their
locations and develop a plan to restore those
customers first, in case of water service
Monitor water supply and calculate how long
water could be provided if the drought persists.
• Actively monitor surface water levels and
groundwater well levels, and identify the
sustainable withdrawal rate for each
~	Review and update your utility's drought
management plan. Establish "triggers" or
"threshold values" for drought conditions that
will require action (e.g., if reservoirs fall below a
certain level, a certain number of days without
~	Develop an emergency drinking water supply
plan and establish response partner contacts
(potentially through your local emergency
management agency [EMA] or mutual aid
network) to discuss procedures, which may
include bulk water hauling, mobile treatment
units or temporary supply lines, as well as
storage and distribution.
n Review or develop your conservation plan and
prepare for voluntary or mandatory conservation
measures. Know your largest water users and
be aware of usage patterns in order to determine
the most effective conservation practices for
your system (e.g., water fixture rebate programs,
watering restrictions, facility audits to mitigate
water loss).
~	Conduct a hazard vulnerability analysis in which
you review historical records to understand the
past frequency and intensity of drought and how
your utility may have been impacted. Consider
taking actions to mitigate drought impacts to the
utility, including those provided in the "Actions to
Recover from a Drought: Mitigation" section.
~	Complete pre-disaster activities to help apply
for federal disaster funding (e.g., contact state/
local officials with connections to funding, set
up a system to document damage and costs,
take photographs of the facility for comparison to
post-damage photographs).
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Actions to Prepare for a Drought (continued)
~ Determine if technical assistance programs
are offered by the state, including wellhead
protection programs for community water
supplies. Assistance may involve:
Development and utilization of predictive
water use models that assist in locating
water for communities
Development and utilization of formal
groundwater monitoring networks
~	Join your state's Water/Wastewater Agency
Response Network (WARN) or other local
mutual aid network.
~	Coordinate with WARN members and other
neighboring utilities to discuss:
Potential drought and conservation
Outlining response activities, roles and
responsibilities, and mutual aid procedures
(e.g., how to request and offer assistance)
Conducting joint tabletop or full-scale
Obtaining resources and assistance, such as
equipment, personnel, technical support or
Establishing interconnections between
systems and agreements with necessary
approvals to activate this alternate water
source. Equipment, pumping rates, demand
on the water sources, and any impacts on
water rights laws need to be considered and
addressed in the design and operations
Establishing communication protocols and
equipment to reduce misunderstandings
during the incident
~	Coordinate with other key response partners,
such as your local EMA, to identify potential
points of distribution for the delivery of an
emergency water supply (e.g., bottled water)
to the public, as well as who is responsible for
distributing the water.
~	Understand how the local and utility emergency
operations center (EOC) will be activated and
what your utility may be called on to do, as
well as how local emergency responders and
the local EOC can support your utility during a
response. If your utility has assets outside of the
county EMA's jurisdiction, consider coordination
or preparedness efforts that should be done in
those areas.
~	Coordinate with other neighboring water systems
to develop a water use plan, especially if your
utility is in an agricultural area, to ensure there
will be an adequate water supply by managing
drawdown rates with agricultural (e.g., irrigation,
livestock watering), industrial and public water
supply needs.
~	Coordinate water usage with neighboring
irrigation districts that are supplied by the same
~	Coordinate with community leaders and high
water-using organizations within the community
to discuss potential drought and conservation
~	Sign up for mobile and/or email alerts from your
local EMA, if available.
r Notes:
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Actions to Prepare for a Drought (continued)
Communication with Customers
~	Communicate with critical customers, high water
users, and agricultural customers to discuss
seasonal demand, irrigation practices and
conservation measures.
~	Review public information protocols with local
EMA and public health/primacy agencies.
These protocols should include developing
water advisory messages (e.g., boil water,
warnings that service disruptions are likely) and
distributing them to customers using appropriate
mechanisms, such as reverse 911.
~	Develop outreach materials for the public (e.g.,
radio, social media, and bill stuffers) that clearly
describe conservation measures and activities.
• Become a WaterSense partner and download
free water efficiency outreach materials to
distribute to your customers: http://www.epa.
~	Consider establishing programs to encourage
customers to conserve water year round, such
as rebate programs, distribution of home retrofit
kits and water conservation classes.
Power, Energy and Fuel	
Evaluate condition of electrical panels to accept
generators; inspect connections and switches.
Document power requirements of the facility;
options for doing this may include:
•	Placing a request with the US Army Corps
of Engineers 249th Engineer Battalion
(Prime Power):
•	Using the US Army Corps of Engineers on-
line Emergency Power Facility Assessment
Tool (EPFAT):
~ Confirm and document generator connection
type, capacity load and fuel consumption. Test
regularly, exercise under load and service
backup generators.
Facility and Service Area	
~	Conduct a water audit to detect and repair leaks
throughout distribution system.
~	Identify opportunities for groundwater recharge
using stormwater and reclaimed water.
~	Document pumping requirements and storage
capabilities, as well as critical treatment
components and parameters.
~	Maintain a full storage tank to assist with
demand should there be a source loss, power
failure or fire suppression needs.
~	In the case of a power loss, ensure personnel
are trained to shut down and start up the system
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Actions to Respond to a Drought
EH Work with your regulatory agency to assist
in identifying and approving alternate water
supplies and operational or design changes.
EH Monitor wildfire conditions and outlooks. See
the Wildfire Incident Action Checklist for more
information on how to prepare for wildfires.
EH Monitor conditions for flash flooding, as dry
ground cannot effectively absorb rainwater, and
assess conditions of the watershed.
~	Communicate with public health officials, local
EMA, and other partners to:
Discuss issues related to heat index
emergencies, fires, and public health
Evaluate conditions and water use
requirements related to HVAC systems
required by hospitals and identify alternative
means to supply water if the utility is unable
to meet demand
~	If needed, request or offer assistance (e.g.,
water buffalos, water sampling teams,
generators) through mutual aid networks, such
as WARN.
Communication with Customers	
~	Implement mandatory or voluntary water
conservation efforts, and conduct regular
outreach to customers.
~	If water shortages or outages occur, notify
customers of water advisories; consider
collaborating with local media (television, radio,
newspaper, etc.) to distribute the message. If
emergency water is being supplied, provide
information on the distribution locations.
Facility and Service Area	
EH Utilize pre-established emergency connections
or set up temporary connections to nearby
communities, as needed. Alternatively,
implement plans to draw emergency water
from pre-determined tanks or hydrants. Notify
employees of the activated sites.
EH Monitor source water quantity (e.g., reservoir
levels, stream flows, well levels, groundwater
EH Monitor water quality and adjust treatment,
if necessary, as reduced water quantity and
increased temperatures could change water
EH Notify regulatory/primacy agency if operations
and/or water quality or quantity are affected.
Documentation and Reporting-
EH Document all damage assessments, mutual aid
requests, emergency repair work, equipment
used, purchases made, staff hours worked
and contractors used during the response
to assist in requesting reimbursement and
applying for federal disaster funds. When
possible, take photographs that illustrate the
drought conditions (with time and date stamp).
Proper documentation is critical to requesting
Power, Energy and Fuel
EH Use backup generators, as needed, to supply
power to system components.
EH Monitor and plan for additional fuel needs
in advance; coordinate fuel deliveries to
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Actions to Recover from a Drought
EH Continue work with response partners to obtain
funding, equipment, etc.
Communication with Customers	
~	Continue to communicate with customers
concerning sustained water conservation
measures and practices.
Facility and Service Area	
~	Complete damage assessments.
~	Complete permanent repairs, replace depleted
supplies and return to normal service.
~	Be prepared for a spike in water demand. Once
normal service has been restored after a period
of time with no water or highly restricted usage,
customers will address those domestic and
agricultural water needs that were postponed.
Documentation and Reporting
~ Compile damage assessment forms and cost
documentation into a single report to facilitate the
sharing of information and the completion of state
and federal funding applications. Visit EPA's web-
based tool, Federal Funding for Utilities—Water/
Wastewater—in National Disasters (Fed FUNDS),
for tailored information and application forms
for various federal disaster funding programs:
EH Develop a lessons learned document and/or an
after action report (AAR) to keep a record of your
response activities. Update your vulnerability
assessment, ERP and drought/extreme heat
contingency plans.
EH Revise budget and asset management plans to
address increased costs from response-related
EH Identify mitigation and long-term adaptation
measures that can prevent damage and increase
utility resilience. Consider impacts related to the
increased frequency and duration of drought/
extreme heat when planning for system upgrades.
EH Consider implementing the following mitigation
measures to prepare for possible flash flooding
events following a drought:
Monitor conditions for flash flooding and
assess conditions of the watershed
Install a rain gauge upstream of intake
for early warning of heavy precipitation
that could lead to high turbidity water and
sensors to monitor the amount of debris and
sediment coming downstream
Consider instituting erosion control
measures to protect against runoff and
sediment concerns that occur during heavy
Office of Water (4608-T) EPA 817-F-15-001 January 2015
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