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Water Utility Resources for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual. Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is a type of virus that is particularly susceptible to disinfection and standard treatment and disinfectant processes are expected to be effective. Read the latest information from EPA about COVID-19 and water. EPA is providing the following summary information of a wide range of resources that were developed for general preparedness purposes. These resources are being provided as a simplified and transparent resource to support the operational needs of drinking water and wastewater systems, including maintaining adequate staffing and laboratory capacity.

EPA supports preparedness planning across the drinking water and wastewater sector by providing resources and tools to states and utilities as they work to provide safe drinking water and wastewater treatment across the United States. Most water systems already have continuity plans in place as part of their best management practices. EPA recommends that states work with their utilities to review their continuity plans.

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System Operations

The following resources are available to support water system operations: 

Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARN)

If resource needs arise for any reason, the Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) provides water and wastewater utilities with the means to quickly obtain help in the form of personnel, equipment, materials and associated services from other utilities to restore critical operations impacted during any type of emergency, big or small. Utilities can find contact information for their  WARN on each state's website or can contact EPA via email

Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)

EMAC is the only congressionally ratified mutual aid & assistance compact between all 50 states plus the D.C., the U.S.V.I., Puerto Rico and Guam. EMAC allows states to send personnel, equipment and commodities to other states to help during governor-declared states of emergency. View additional information on EMAC and how it can support utilities. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Circuit-Rider Program

USDA funds Circuit Riders to respond to natural disasters and emergencies in the regular line of duty. Under this program, certified Circuit Riders can be deployed to provide technical assistance and expertise to support systems in need, including providing temporary operational assistance. The EPA will work with USDA, states, and systems to connect small systems to this resource. Water systems must be eligible for USDA funding in order to receive assistance. Learn more about circuit riders. 

Water Sector Technical Assistance Programs

Organizations such as the National Rural Water Program (NRWA) Exitand the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) Exitmay be able to provide technical assistance through water and wastewater Circuit Riders that may work onsite with utility system personnel to troubleshoot problems and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. They may not be able to provide extended coverage but may be available to assist as necessary. 

State Water and Wastewater Operator Program Offices

State water operator program offices can be contacted for information for help in finding resources for water system operations, including certified operators within a state. Most of these state offices maintain lists of all operators within the state that can be used to help systems identify back-up operators in case of illness due to COVID-19. Many of these state websites can be found on EPA’s Operator Certification contact website and additional information about operator certification programs is available in EPA’s Summary of State Operator Certification Programs (PDF).

Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA)

ASDWA is the professional Association serving state drinking water programs since 1984, and can be contacted for assistance in finding water operation information at the state level.  Visit ASDWA for more information or send an email inquiry to ASDWA.

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Laboratory Capacity

In the event a laboratory is closed due to staffing impacts or otherwise not able to perform standard sample analysis for potential water system contaminants, to identify alternative laboratory support options, water systems may contact their state drinking water laboratory certification program to review their list of additional state certified drinking water laboratories.

Additionally, the water system may consider the following options for identifying an alternative certified or accredited drinking water lab:

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Funding and Financing

The following resources are available to water systems for funding and financing support: 

Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds

EPA’s DWSRF and CWSRF are sources of low-cost financing for ongoing water system needs that can help stimulate the economy and create jobs by getting much needed funds to shovel-ready infrastructure projects.

Systems should also be aware that:

  • SRFs have the flexibility to provide loans with interest rates as low as 0%.
  • The FY20 appropriation provides the CWSRFs with the ability to provide up to 40% of their capitalization grants in the form of principal forgiveness, negative interest loans, and grants. DWSRFs may provide up to 49% of their FY20 capitalization grants for those purposes.
  • Technical assistance to water systems is also available from the DWSRF.
  • SRFs can provide financing flexibilities to communities struggling to repay existing SRF loans.
  • SRFs may also offer flexible repayment options, such as offering forbearance and other restructuring options as appropriate.

For systems that may need assistance with using their SRF, contact your state SRF manager. Visit EPA's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) website or EPA's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) website to learn more.

Technical Assistance Providers

Additional support is available from technical assistance providers for small drinking water systems seeking solutions to challenges with reduced revenues and increased expenses.

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Pandemic Incident Action Checklist

EPA’s Pandemic Incident Action Checklist is comprised of three different “rip & run” checklists that can help water utilities prepare for, respond to, and recover from a pandemic. Each checklist provides examples of actions that drinking water and wastewater systems can take.

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Information on Maintaining or Restoring Water Quality in Buildings with Low or No Use

Building and business closures for weeks or months reduce water usage, potentially leading to stagnant water inside building plumbing. This water can become unsafe to drink or otherwise use for domestic or commercial purposes. EPA recommends that building owners and managers take proactive steps to protect public health by minimizing water stagnation during closures and taking action to address building water quality prior to reopening.  

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Additional Resources