Water System Disaster Response: Wildfires & More
Wildfires, floods and other disasters can profoundly impact infrastructure for large and small water systems and building safety. When drinking water systems are damaged or contaminated, population displacement and business closures can occur. Impacted households can lose public confidence and experience mental health and financial impacts. For wildfires alone in the U.S., tens of thousands of public water systems and roughly 50% of buildings nationwide are vulnerable. Accidents and intentional events can also prompt acute health risks. Utility professionals and health officials are often looked to after a disaster when drinking water safety is a concern. THIS SESSION will share firsthand lessons from helping water utilities and communities respond to the deadliest, most destructive, and costliest wildfires in recent US history. These include the 2018 Camp Fire, 2021 Marshall Fire, 2020 and 2022 wildfires in Oregon and New Mexico. In addition, lessons from responding to and helping communities recover from chemical spill, backflow incidents, and other disasters will also be shared. The presenters will also describe emerging research results regarding water utility and community preparedness, post-disaster decision making, as well as technical issues such as identifying chemical contamination sources, contamination and decontamination of utility and building plumbing infrastructure.