Water Online

November 2017

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

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By Peter Chawaga I t may seem counterintuitive, but too much influent is one of the greatest threats that any water system faces. The dangers of flooding should be top of mind for any water utility, because of its potential to disrupt operations, damage equipment, and even endanger lives. And it's a threat that is likely to become only more acute as climate change raises sea levels and brings storm surges more regularly. To reduce vulnerability, the EPA has undertaken efforts to educate the country's water utilities about how best to prepare for and respond to flooding events. "Flooding is one of the most common hazards in the United States, causing more damage than any other severe, weather-related event," an EPA spokesperson said. "It can occur from tropical storms, hurricanes, swollen rivers, heavy rains, tidal surges, spring snowmelt, levee or dam failure, local drainage issues, and water distribution main breaks. Impacts to drinking water and wastewater utilities can include loss of power, damage to assets, and dangerous conditions for personnel. As storms become more frequent and intense and as sea levels rise, flooding will be an ongoing challenge for drinking water and wastewater utilities." A Small, Coastal Town The agency's education efforts have ranged from online tools to funding opportunities, but perhaps nothing is quite as powerful as hearing from a peer. So the EPA developed a list of best practices based on how it helped the small town of Mattapoisett, MA deal with floods. "Mattapoisett's drinking water system is extremely vulnerable due to its location," said the spokesperson. "Its drinking water wells run along the Mattapoisett River Valley located in the 100-year flood plain and hurricane inundation zone." Located across the water from Cape Cod on the Nantucket Sound, the town's roughly 6,000 residents have decades of experience with severe weather. They are fully aware of the dangers that storms and flooding present to water operations. "Mattapoisett has suffered from a number of extreme weather events, flooding from storm surge, hurricanes, and severe winter storms," said the spokesperson. "Two of the most significant storms we focused on were the unnamed storm in 1938 and Hurricane Bob in 1991. Other severe weather that impacted Mattapoisett include Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and Hurricane Carol in 1954." Hurricane Bob, for instance, overtopped drinking water supply wells, allowing saltwater to enter the local aquifer. These wells still haven't recovered and have been out of commission ever since. Given its history, Mattapoisett's leadership, town manager, and water superintendent expressed interest in learning more about the impacts of extreme weather, sea level rise, and how to protect their town's drinking water supplies. The EPA's Region 1 and Office of Research and Development worked with the town and made some of the lessons learned available to other communities that might share the same concerns. 10 wateronline.com n Water Innovations A small, coastal Massachusetts town plagued by floods and imperiled drinking water supplies teamed with the EPA to bolster its defenses, resulting in a framework for other at-risk communities to follow. How To Protect Your Water Supply Against Flooding To reduce vulnerability, the EPA has undertaken efforts to educate the country's water utilities about how best to prepare for and respond to flooding events.

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