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Public Water System Operational Considerations

During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(*thanks to our friends at the Ohio Section AWWA for sharing this resource)

Foundation:  Public Water Systems are essential to the health and safety of the community.  We must continue to operate even in the face of a potential crisis.

Items for consideration during this time:

  1. Consider the essential functions of the PWS.
    1. Treating and supplying adequate sources of potable water.
    2. Delivering that water to the end users.

  2. The number one concern during this pandemic is maintaining adequate staffing levels of critical personnel, such as water treatment plant operators, distribution system crew repair persons, and maintenance staff.
    1. Be prepared to operate with significantly reduced staffing levels.
    2. What steps can be taken to ensure adequate staffing:
      1. Practice Social Distancing at work and at home- Limit interactions between staff so that a single sick individual does not infect other employees.
      2. Make sure sick employees stay home or are sent home.
      3. Be prepared to isolate critical staff at the facilities for multiple days at a time.
      4. Split up staffing and keep individuals home on paid, on-call leave while others work and then switch.Or stagger start times to avoid crowding.
      5. Consider who could support operations if needed such as supervisors; former employees who now work in other classifications; recently retired employees; contractors.
      6. Review and update SOP’s for critical functions so that substitute employees can perform these tasks if called upon.
      7. Of course proper hand washing practices and additional cleaning of facilities.
    3. In case of further government directives that restricts travel locally, or regionally, make sure your employees have the proper ID’s, or credentials, to be able to respond to work, or emergency situations, involving our vital public service.
    4. Have a backup laboratory in place for regulatory sampling analysis, in case your laboratory of choice becomes unavailable.
      1. Reduce your sample collector's exposure to the public during compliance sampling, where able.  Provide PPE.
    5. Eliminate public/staff interfaces such as front desks, lobbies or bill paying windows where able.Most if not all functions can still be accomplished by phone, online, or via mail.
    6. Cancel group meetings and instead delay or meet remotely by teleconference or other.

  3. The second item of concern is potential interruption of the normal supply chain for critical chemicals and repair parts.
    1. Make sure that critical treatment chemicals are fully stocked.Don’t allow these supplies to get too low as there is a very real chance that normal supply chains could be hampered or delayed.
    2. Make sure fundamental repair parts are fully stocked.Items such as lengths of replacement pipe, pipe repair clamps, sleeves, valves, etc.Make sure equipment is in good repair and ready to go.

  4. For those with SCADA automation, set up and test remote monitoring and control of water treatment plants.

  5. Do NOT rely on cell phones for communication.Regional emergencies overload wireless systems and cell phone communication during these times is sporadic or non-existent.Instead utilize radio and land-line communication systems.

  6. Many utilities only have a single financial person on staff to enter purchase orders and pay bills.Make sure a second individual is prepared to take over in an emergency.They need to at least be able to pay the power bills and order basic supplies.

  7. Water Shut-Offs for delinquent payments are being suspended and water service restored across the state.During this crisis it’s important for customers to have access to water for washing, hydration, and other fundamental health needs.

  8. Ensure your lines of communication are open between your utility and your local first-responders.Know who to call. Confirm you will be involved in your local Emergency Operations Center when necessary.

  9. Contact Hour Training:Many of the normal sources of training have been temporarily suspended.Consider how certified personnel may obtain required contact hours by remote or in-house training.

  10. Water Sampling - from Andrea Rhodes – IEPA – Dated March 16, 2020

We have been receiving a lot of phone calls concerning coliform sampling whether it’s still required and what to do if they have sites that are inaccessible.  Please understand that the Agency does not have the authority to waive these sampling requirements or any other regulatory requirements related to the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The work that you all do every day is protective of public health, that does not change even while facing a different challenge to public health.

For the next several months the Agency will use enforcement discretion regarding sites selected for sampling.  If a water system has a site that is not available at this time or they are not comfortable collecting a coliform sample from a certain location a different site may be selected.

The water system will still be required to collect their minimum number of sample sites.  They should make every attempt to sample from each pressure zone (if applicable).  Sample sheets should be marked as Routine or Repeat as applicable. If a site is selected that is not on the current site plan they must include the address on the sample sheet – and they must still record a chlorine residual.  The sample will be uploaded as a routine extra with the sample address in the notes field.

If a water system indicates that they want to continue using one of the new locations, they may contact their Regional Office and formally add it to their site plan.


IL Section AWWA  |  COVID-News feedISAWWA News Feed 
545 S. Randall Road, St. Charles, IL 60174

Phone: 866-521-3595
Cell phones: Annie Storey  402-214-3622  |   Laurie 815-970-2145 | Stacey 630-815-1238 |  John 630-502-8335 

2020 - COVID-19 AWWA Resources

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2020 - COVID-19 AWWA Resources
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
AWWA Webinar Recording (added 3/22/20) Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
Journal AWWA - Water system preparedness (Jan 2009 Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
Coronavirus and water - (Feb 28)  Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
AWWA Connections - COVID-19 response: water sector Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
COVID Response ( March 12) Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
Water Utility COVID19 response request letter.pdf PDF (95.17 KB)  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
AWWA COVID - 19 Webinar Handouts (March 20) PDF (2.35 MB)  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
M19 Emergency Planning Manual - Link to Store Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
G440-17 Emergency Preparedness Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020

2020 - COVID-19 Federal Resources

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2020 - COVID-19 Federal Resources
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
Federal Resource List PDF (417.67 KB)  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
CDC- Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection  Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
CISA - Essential Critical Infrast. Workers PDF (526.69 KB)  more ] Administration 3/23/2020
DHS - Essential Infrastructure Workforce PDF (526.71 KB)  more ] Administration 3/22/2020
FEMA - COVID-19 Eligible Emer. Prt. Measures PDF (146.47 KB)  more ] Administration 3/22/2020

2020 - COVID-19 ISAWWA Resources

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2020 - COVID-19 ISAWWA Resources
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
COVID-ISAWWA Webinar Q and A -March 23, 2020 PDF (483.64 KB)  more ] Administration 3/25/2020
Essential Critical Infrastructure - word doc form DOCX (14.74 KB)  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
Webinar Handouts 03/23/20 Coronavirus (COVID-19) PDF (1.26 MB)  more ] Administration 3/23/2020
03/23/20 Coronavirus (COVID-19) WEBINAR Link Administration 3/23/2020

2020 - COVID-19 Other Association Resources

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2020 - COVID-19 Other Association Resources
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
WaterISAC COVID-19 Working Group Call 3.17.2020 PDF (143.03 KB)  more ] Administration 3/27/2020
Responses to WaterISAC Survey of Members 3.6.2020 PDF (166.15 KB)  more ] Administration 3/27/2020
WaterISAC COVID-19 Working Group Call 3.24.20 PDF (175.55 KB)  more ] Administration 3/27/2020
WRF Research Foundation - Handout for Webinar PDF (2.35 MB)  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
Water Research Foundation - Webinar Recording Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
Water Research Foundation - Coronavirus Update  Link  more ] Administration 3/23/2020
WHO - Online COVID-19 training  Link  more ] Administration 3/24/2020

2020 - COVID-19 State Resources

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2020 - COVID-19 State Resources
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
Illinois State Resource List PDF (441.65 KB)  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
Ill. Executive Order #2020-07 (March 16, 2020) PDF (86.2 KB)  more ] Administration 3/22/2020
Ill. Executive Order March 13, 2020 Link  more ] Administration 3/22/2020
IEPA - Guidance for sample takers DOCX (22.83 KB)  more ] Administration 3/24/2020
IEMA - Public Assist. Program Fact Sheet PDF (361.08 KB)  more ] Administration 3/22/2020
Illinois Commerce Commission's emergency order rel PDF (240.59 KB)  more ] Administration 3/21/2020

2020 - COVID-19 Utility Resources

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2020 - COVID-19 Utility Resources
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
Village of Wilmette COVID-19 Mitigation Plan PDF (186.74 KB)  more ] Administration 3/30/2020
Lombard Public Works COVID-19 Emergency Plan Early PDF (1.29 MB)  more ] Administration 3/26/2020
Lombard Public Works COVID-19 Emergency Plan PDF (174.2 KB)  more ] Administration 3/26/2020
North Chicago Public Works COVID-19 Emergency Plan PDF (220.27 KB)  more ] Administration 3/26/2020
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