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Development of emergency response plans for community water systems

U Jack
Philip de Souza
N Kalebaila


All water services systems, irrespective of size, location etc., should have emergency response plans (ERPs) to guide officials, stakeholders and consumers through emergencies, as part of managing risks in the water supply system. Emergencies in the water supply system may result from, among other causes, natural disasters, equipment failure, human error and intentional acts (e.g. vandalism). Simply put, an ERP prepares the organisation for emergencies and gives specific instructions about what to do if there is an emergency situation that may affect the water system. To assist water services institutions (WSIs), the Water Research Commission project ‘Water Safety and Security: Emergency Response Plans’ aimed to develop a generic ERP guide for community water systems (CWS). A CWS in this study was defined as a potable water service provided to a rural community where municipal constraints exist and there is either ‘no supply’ or water is provided up to a communal standpipe. Emergencies considered in this study include (i) unavailability of water or (ii) excess of water (e.g. flood) and (iii) water quality or pollution/contamination. CWS in 3 provinces in South Africa (Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape), were visited to (i) identify the water service delivery status, methods and possible shared threats/vulnerabilities and risks (ii) identify water services challenges experienced by these communities (iii) ascertain who owns and who is responsible for water services (e.g. whether these communities are serviced by municipalities or by local chiefs and/or trusts) and (iv) investigate whether the systems have been documented and evaluated. Following site visits, an ERP guideline document with associated templates will be developed and workshopped with the selected communities, which will include: (i) conditions identified as emergencies, (ii) communication procedures/protocol/chain of command, and (iii) procedures detailing how to attend to the specified emergencies.

Keywords: potable; supply; emergency; public health

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1816-7950
print ISSN: 0378-4738