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Guide Water Utility Resilience Program

This program supports local drinking water and wastewater utilities in their efforts to build up resilience to severe weather events.

Table of Contents

How can WURP help my DW and/or WW Utility?

Assistance provided through this program includes: identifying helpful and practical resiliency resources, finding opportunities for local and regional partnerships, offering infrastructure mapping and adaptation planning assistance, and coordinating training opportunities.  WURP works closely with the MassDEP Emergency Preparedness Officer to ensure climate change resilience is part of an all hazards approach to technical assistance for DW and WW utilities.

What specific support can WURP provide?

  1. Critical Infrastructure Mapping
  2. Emergency & Security Preparedness
    1. Training Support
    2. Drinking Water Program Emergency Response Planning
  3. Cyanobacteria Support
  4. Climate Change Information & Resources
    1. Executive Order 569 and the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program
    2. National Climate Resource Tools

WURP prioritizes technical assistance for drinking water and wastewater utilities based upon system vulnerability and infrastructure risks identified through desktop assessments that determine topographic vulnerabilities, emergency response (ER) events, regional program recommendations, and utility interest.

Critical Infrastructure GIS Mapping Initiative

“Enhancing Resilience and Emergency Preparedness of Water Utilities through Improved Mapping”

Project Background:
Throughout the Commonwealth, maps are utilized by Public Water Systems (PWSs) and Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) for operational purposes and to meet federal and state regulatory requirements.   Maps are also used during emergency response efforts and for non-emergency scenarios, such as MassDEP permitting, inspection and review of regulated facilities, troubleshooting water utility issues, watershed/resource protection, and climate change resilience planning. Available maps can vary from hand drawings and old blue-prints, to fully engineered Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or Computer-Aided Design (CAD) maps based upon the available resources of any given water utility.   

2016 Project Work:
In 2016, a collaborative effort was initiated between MassDEP’s WURP and MassDEP’s GIS program to develop a uniform approach in tracking map availability, improve internal accessibility to water utility critical infrastructure, and develop a consistently formatted, statewide water utility infrastructure map for state agency use.  The initiative resulted in a preliminary statewide inventory of available community (COM) PWSs and POTWs mapping information, and included a comprehensive review of historical mapping projects, available online information, and internal MassDEP files.   The inventory allowed MassDEP to identify water utilities that may potentially be in need of GIS mapping technical assistance. 

2017 Project Work:
In 2017, state grant funding through MassDEP’s Water Management Act (WMA) program secured $300,000 to assist in jumpstarting GIS mapping for water utilities that lack the resources for such work.  In January 2017, MassDEP issued a Request for Quotes (RFQ) seeking bids from pre-qualified firms on the ITS53ProjServGIS statewide contract in order to select a Contractor for this work.  The work included confirming information contained within MassDEP’s mapping inventory, updating PWS interconnection information, and providing GIS mapping services for up to 50 water utilities.  

In March 2017, MassDEP contracted with Tighe & Bond, Inc. to provide these GIS services.   As a result, a total of 32 communities, prioritized as 34 PWSs and 15 POTWs, received GIS mapping services free of charge.  The 49 water utilities were prioritized based upon factors that included system size, need(s) and interest in participation, and MassDEP regional program staff input.   

Data developed from the 2017 project resulted in MassDEP and each PWS and/or POTW receiving a hard copy paper map of their respective drinking water distribution or sewer collection system, along with a thumb drive that contained a pdf image of the map, the GIS data for their system, and a GIS metadata description report. 

The FY17 project has assisted water utilities with enhancing their ability to better manage infrastructure assets, respond to emergencies, and meet regulatory mapping requirements as necessary.  In addition, the FY17 project is providing MassDEP with the tools necessary to evaluate, prioritize and assist water utilities with critical infrastructure resilience planning and climate change adaptation, as well as improve MassDEP’s ability to more efficiently respond to water utility emergencies.  

Award letter for 2017 PWS Mapping
Award letter for 2017 WW Mapping
FY17 WURP-GIS Participants

2018 Project Work:
In anticipation of an available $500,000 in funds for project furtherance during fiscal year 2018 (FY18), MassDEP issued a Request for Interest (RFI) on November 7, 2017 to solicit interest from additional PWSs and POTWs to receive free technical assistance in developing GIS maps of their respective distribution and/or collection systems from a private consulting firm. The RFI was posted to the MassDEP website with additional direct email messages sent out through MassDEP’s drinking water and wastewater/Department of Public Works (DPW) listserv.

On February 20, 2018 MassDEP issued an RFQ through CommBuys to hire a consultant that will provide:

  • GIS technical assistance for up to 40 water utilities; 
  • quality control review of over 400 water utility service area maps with revisions as appropriate; 
  • investigation of map status for approximately 100 communities and development of water utility service area maps subject to community response; and 
  • a field use information report that offers opportunities for water utilities to access and enhance their systems’ GIS data in real time.

MassDEP is pleased to announce that Tighe & Bond, Inc. was selected and approved as the successful bidder to continue this work during FY18.  A list of systems approved for direct technical assistance as a result of their response to the RFI is available below, along with letters of support from both the MassDEP drinking water and wastewater programs.

Award Letter for 2018 PWS Mapping
Award Letter for 2018 WW Mapping
FY18 WURP-GIS Participants
Map of Participants in 2017 and 2018 Grant Rounds

Additional Resources for Critical Infrastructure GIS Mapping Initiative

Hazard Mitigation & Emergency Preparedness

WURP staff also serves as MassDEP’s Drinking Water Program (DWP) coordinator for the Emergency & Security Preparedness Workgroup, represents MassDEP on the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) Security and Resilience Committee, and collaborates with MassDEP’s Emergency Preparedness Officer to both respond to emergencies and help coordinate appropriate training opportunities for both MassDEP staff and the regulated community within the water sector.  

This includes implementing more opportunities for Incident Command System (ICS) training; the standardized, on-scene, all-hazards approach that allows flexibility in emergency response for expanding incidents, and represents the required guidelines of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) framework.  

WURP has secured and assisted in coordinating various emergency coordination training, and will continue to support these efforts, which have included:

  • 2017 EPA-funded ICS-100 and NIMS-700 classroom training
  • 2017 EPA-funded Drinking Water, Public Health and Healthcare Sectors Communication Boston area workshop
  • 2018 MA Department of Recreation and Conservation (DCR)-funded ICS-200 classroom training 
  • 2018 EPA-funded Drinking Water, Public Health and Healthcare Sectors Communication Springfield area workshop

If your water utility needs assistance with emergency response planning or specific training needs, please contact WURP to discuss. 

For materials specific to drinking water emergency response, please go to:

MassDEP considers cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins to be emerging contaminants, warranting additional attention and action. Recent and predicted changes in precipitation, storm frequency and magnitude, as well as changes in air and water temperatures, affect and can enhance cyanobacteria growth.  As a result, more cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (CyanoHABs) are being documented both in Massachusetts and nationwide. MassDEP is collaborating with other state agencies, such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to ensure appropriate response to CyanoHAB events.  MassDEP offered presentations on the subject of cyanobacteria at the Massachusetts Health Officers Association (MHOA)/MassDEP annual winter seminars, and the Massachusetts Water Works Association (MWWA) membership meeting.

For information specific to CyanoHABs, please go to:

Additional Resources for Hazard Mitigation & Emergency Preparedness

Climate Change Information & Resources

To best identify helpful climate change resources for the water utility sector, WURP actively participates in various agencies’ climate change programs, and serves as the Chairperson for the ASDWA ad hoc Climate Change Committee. Below are some climate-related programs and resources that the water sector may find useful.

MA Executive Order 569 & the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program

In September 2016, Governor Charles D. Baker signed EO 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth,” which, among several other actions, requires the state to publish a Climate Adaptation Plan. This plan is currently under development as a combined State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, with an anticipated completion date of September 2018. In addition, EO 569 requires the state to establish a framework for each City and Town in the Commonwealth to assess its vulnerability to climate change and extreme weather events, and to identify adaptation options for its assets. The MVP grant program is a direct result of this EO 569 requirement, and provides support for cities and towns to begin the process of planning for climate change resiliency and implementing projects.

To see EO 569 in its entirety, please go to:

For specific information on MVP, please go to:

To view the first Climate Change Adaptation Report for Massachusetts, which was released in September 2011, please go to:
2011 Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report - Full Report


Several federal agencies, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) have developed a number of tools to assist with climate change adaptation that have been designed specifically for water utilities. A brief overview of some of these tools and their links is below.

US EPA Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) Initiative Resource and Toolbox:

Online resource specific to water utility managers that provides tools, training and technical assistance to adapt to climate change. The CRWU toolbox provides access to resources containing climate-related information that can be searched by geographic region, water utility type and size, water resources, climate change impact and climate change response strategies, including planning for climate change and assessing climate change risks and vulnerability.

US EPA Adaptation Strategies Guide for Water Utilities:

Informational resource guide used to provide adaptation options for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities based on region and projected climate impacts. The guide assists utilities in gaining a better understanding of what climate related impacts they may face, and includes information on incorporating sustainability (green infrastructure and energy management) into adaptation planning.

US EPA Region 1 Resilience and Adaptation in New England (RAINE) Database:

An online database collection of vulnerability, resilience and adaptation reports, plans and webpages at the state, regional and community level made easily accessible to additional communities dealing with similar climate change issues (specific to US EPA Region 1).

US EPA Storm Surge Inundation and Hurricane Strike Frequency Map:

Interactive map shows current worst-case coastal storm surge or inundation scenarios and hurricane strike frequency derived from the Sea, Lake and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) models by NOAA, 100 and 500 year flood plains from FEMA and Hurricane strike dataset from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

US EPA Route to Resilience (RtoR):

A downloadable users guide for drinking water and wastewater utilities to learn what it means to be resilient, and what tools and resources are available for their utility to become resilient.

US EPA Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT 3.0):

A Web-based risk assessment tool that allows drinking water and wastewater utilities to evaluate potential impacts of climate change and identify adaptation options. The tool guides users through identifying specific asset threats, and after assessment, provides a series of risk reduction and cost reports to evaluate adaptation options for planning.

During 2015 and 2016, WURP joined EPA in working with two Massachusetts communities on pilot projects involving the completion of a climate change risk assessment using CREAT. If you are interested in further assistance with CREAT and using lessons learned from the pilot projects, please contact WURP.

US EPA Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center:

This online tool will explore innovative financial tools, public-private partnerships and build on SRF to better leverage federal funding programs with the goal of utility improvement through innovating financing and building resilience to climate change.

Water Research Foundation (WRF) Climate Change Clearinghouse:

Online resource about drinking water, wastewater and water reuse.

Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA):

WUCA is a collaboration of 10 of the nation’s largest water providers including NY to provide leadership and collaboration on climate change issues affecting the country’s water agencies for decision making purposes. Also collaborating with CRWU and Piloting Utility Modeling Applications (PUMA).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Portal:

The climate portal is a single point of online entry for NOAA’s collection of climate data and information.

NOAA Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper:

A free online tool that provides maps, data and information to assess risks and vulnerabilities related to coastal flooding and hazards.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Climate Change:

Online resources for emergency management in a changing climate, tools and data, knowledge and capacity, publications, and strategy and policy.

Image credits:  MassDEP