Canadian Water and Wastewater Association eBulletin

Pandemic Planning for Water and Wastewater Utilities

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With COVID-19 making headlines, leading to global travel restrictions, and strict quarantines in China, members should be considering their pandemic preparedness and making sure they are prepared if the virus continues to spread. The dangers of a major pandemic are not just a sick workforce - with so much of our goods coming from China, a major disruption in manufacturing could have major impacts on availability of crucial supplies and chemicals for our members.

In 2009, CWWA worked to develop a pandemic planning position statement. While the position statement is not currently available, much of the advice remains relevant.

We encourage members to:

  • address their current level of preparedness for a pandemic influenza and ensure that measures are taken to eliminate gaps in preparedness;
  • prepare and review business continuity plans (BCPs) in order to ensure their ability to continue to operate during emergencies.

In particular, water and wastewater services managers should consider the following questions:

  • Do you have a business continuity plan prepared that contemplates an employee absenteeism rate of 20 to 30% either through illness or quarantine, over a long period of time?
  • Is your staff informed of the serious nature of the current pandemic risk and the best means of avoiding the risk - including measures of personal hygiene?
  • Have you established contact with your local, regional or provincial public health authorities regarding pandemic control provisions and measures?
  • Does your sick-leave policy reflect the special circumstances of a pandemic situation?
  • Do you have a stock of critical products (e.g., chlorine or other chemical disinfectants) used in treatment operations that reflects the possibility of severe interruptions to normal supply patterns?
  • Have you discussed with your critical product suppliers and their transportation services, conditions for assuring continued supply of critical treatment products.

The Association also collaborated on a tabletop exercise to explore pandemic preparedness with the City of Calgary, this exercise was specific to an outbreak of H1N1 influenza, but many of the lessons learned can be applied to any similar virus.  Download a summary of some of the major findings of that exercise.