Develop Contingency Plan

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Contingency planning is an essential component of the Oregon Wellhead Protection Program that focuses on water purveyor response to the contamination or disruption of the groundwater supply to a public water system. Generally, these plans should focus on:

The primary responsibility for the development of these plans lies with the individual water purveyor, however, effective development and implementation of the plans may require local, regional and state involvement depending on the structure of emergency response coordination protocols in the area. Where possible, water suppliers should coordinate with existing local emergency response coordinators in developing their contingency plans.

Guidance for the development of a contingency plan is available through USEPA's technical assistance document entitled "Guide to Groundwater Supply Contingency Planning for Local and State Governments", Oregon Health Division Wellhead Protection workshops and this guidance document. The essential elements of a contingency plan under the Oregon Wellhead Protection Program must include the following at a minimum:

1. An Inventory of All Potential Threats to The Drinking Water Supply. Each water system must identify all likely contingencies that might impact the flow of water to consumers. Systems may vary depending on the water source, local geology, hydraulic conditions, area land uses, sources of contamination, climatic conditions and water system design and operation. Accordingly, contingency plans must identify and prioritize the most likely threats that could occur.

2. Prioritization of Water Usage. Each water system should develop a detailed understanding of its water use and demand in case it becomes necessary to replace the water supply. In order to choose an appropriate replacement, planners need to know what community needs should receive the highest priority as well as minimum and maximum daily consumption levels and peak demands. Usage rates may differ based on whether the water use is for residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, recreational, fire or health and safety needs.

3. Protocols for Responding to Potential Incidents. Scenarios should be developed for the most likely events that may disrupt the water supply and how the water system will respond in each case. Scenarios should include a description of the incident that threatens the water supply, complicating matters that may arise during the episode, and remedial actions that must be taken.

4. Identification of Key Personnel and Development of A Notification Roster. In any emergency situation it is necessary to have a chain of command of recognized and qualified individuals who have been specifically chosen for that purpose. A response coordinator should be designated at the water system level to work in conjunction with the established emergency response coordination system of the county. Most counties in Oregon have some program already developed for this purpose. The roster should include local, county, and state contacts as well as local health departments. The Oregon Emergency Management (OEM) staff can help with the development of your contingency plan, can help you locate your county's coordinator, and let you know if your county has an existing approved emergency plan. The OEM can be reached at (503) 378-2911 in Salem.

5. Identification of Short-Term and Long-Term Replacement of Potable Water Supplies. Depending on the type of disruption, the water purveyor should evaluate alternative water supplies that will meet the minimum needs of the system during the event. The alternative supply must meet applicable health standards and be in adequate quantity for the community needs. Emergency or short-term options should be evaluated first where the need may be measured in hours or days and then medium and long-term options should be evaluated where a permanent alternative supply must be developed.

6. Identification of Short-Term and Long-Term Conservation Measures. Each water system should prioritize their responsibility to their users. Users that purchase surplus water should be identified and water usages prioritized in case of emergencies. In certain cases some usages must be curtailed to conserve a limited water supply or protect a threatened water source. Conservation measures may include the reduction of use of surplus water, restrictions on agricultural or domestic use of irrigation water or recreation use in favor of usages that effect fire, health and safety. Information on developing a water conservation program can be obtained from the Municipal Water Conservation Specialists at the Oregon Water Resources Department, (503) 378-8455.

7. Provisions for Plan Testing, Review and Update. Water systems should develop mock exercises for the high priority scenarios to determine the efficacy of the plans. Water system planners should schedule periodic reviews of contingency plans to reevaluate and revise procedures, protocols, personnel changes and new developments as needed. Summaries should be kept for each scenario and a master schedule maintained identifying parties responsible for plan review, frequency of review and revision up-dates.

8. Provisions for Personnel Training. In order to be effective, contingency planning must rely on properly trained individuals, operating within a well organized and effective system with up-to-date information. Water systems should encourage continuing education and training opportunities in all aspects of contingency planning to help key personnel stay abreast of new and ongoing developments. County and state agencies may provide some training opportunities; however, opportunities should be developed by the water system as well.

9. Provisions for Public Education. Water systems should develop educational materials to build and maintain public confidence in the Wellhead Protection Plan. Development of newsletters brochures, bill stuffers, public forums and newspaper articles can help water users focus on areas of concern and help nurture support and assistance when contingency plans are put into effect.

10. Identification of Logistical and Financial Resources. Essential to the success of implementing contingency plans is the ability to make available key personnel, equipment and technical resources in a well organized and timely manner. The plans should enable local officials to quickly identify and coordinate all pertinent resources to respond to the needs at hand. Equipment and contractor services, chemical and treatment supply services and water transport equipment should be identified and catalogued. An Inventories of materials and material resources should be maintained and revised as needed to be current. Since lack of financial resources is often a limiting factor in responding to emergencies, water purveyors should evaluate their own financial resources as well as federal, state and local funding resources to insure funding is available when the need arises.

To illustrate the contingency planning concepts outlined above, Appendix I contains a brief synopsis of a fictitious community water system faced with the disruption of their water supply as a result of a potential contamination episode. In this scenario, it is assumed that the water system has a state certified Wellhead Protection Plan and the contingency plan component is being implemented in response to an emergency situation.

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