The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently published a new standard providing actionable steps for water utilities to prepare for crisis situations. A first-of-its-kind standard, ISO 24518:2015, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services - Crisis management of water utilities, follows the "Plan-Do-Check-Act" (PDCA) approach to crisis management. It is designed to ensure water utilities have adequate quantity and quality of water supply, sanitation, operation of supply and sewage systems, and response and recovery in emergencies.
If a disaster strikes, ecosystems are vulnerable to health epidemics caused by fast-growing contamination. Natural catastrophic events such as hurricanes and tsunamis can lead to flooding, which can threaten lives and communities at critical times when clean and potable water may not be available. The new international standard will reduce the likelihood of such scenarios by helping utilities prepare for situations when the normal supply of potable water or collection and treatment of wastewater are interrupted as a result of a crisis.
The guidelines contained in ISO 24518 can be used by water authorities and departments at various levels, water corporations and other bodies dealing with water supply, crisis management organizations, water engineers, and consultants. Its recommendations include the following:
Cope with crisis situations to be able to ensure water supply and the removal and treatment of wastewater
Cooperate with all the authorities concerned
Consider the natural environment as well as the impact on the health and well-being of the population
Effectively communicate with the public to mitigate or prevent panic
ISO 24518 was developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 224, Service activities relating to drinking water supply systems and wastewater systems - Quality criteria of the service and performance indicators. Thirty-five countries including the United States participate in the committee's work, under French (AFNOR) leadership, with another 20 as observers. U.S. input to TC 224 is coordinated by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the ANSI-accredited administrator of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the committee. AWWA is an ANSI member and accredited standards developer.
ISO 24518 will be complemented with an International Standard on Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services - Crisis management of water utilities - Good practice for technical aspects, yet to be published.