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 the program help my drinking-water and/or wastewater utility?

Assistance provided through the Water Utility Resilience Program (WURP) 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 the program 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 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 events, regional program recommendations, and utility interest.

Critical Infrastructure GIS Mapping Initiative

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

Project Goals:
This project is designed to assist public drinking water and wastewater systems with developing and updating their system infrastructure maps in order to better manage assets, respond to emergencies and meet regulatory requirements, as well as provide MassDEP with secure access to critical infrastructure map information for enhanced emergency preparedness and resilience planning.  

Project History:
Enhancing Resilience and Emergency Preparedness of Water Utilities through Improved Mapping: 2016-2017

2018 Project Work:
$500,000 was made available through the WMA program for project furtherance during fiscal year 2018 (FY18).  On November 7, 2017, MassDEP issued a Request for Interest (RFI) to solicit interest from additional PWSs and POTWs to receive free technical assistance in developing or updating GIS maps of their respective distribution and/or collection systems from a private consulting firm.

On February 20, 2018 MassDEP issued a Request for Quotes (RFQ) through CommBuys to hire a pre-qualified Contractor that would provide the GIS technical assistance.  In May 2018, MassDEP contracted with Tighe & Bond, Inc. to complete the tasks outlined in the RFQ.   The contract was extended through December 31, 2018 to provide adequate time for completion of five tasks.  Project results included detailed GIS system mapping of 45 water utilities, statewide service area mapping and confirmation for 237 PWSs and 79 wastewater systems, and development of a Field Use Information Report, which offers water utilities information about how they can use their GIS data.

The project's work in FY18 included development of a GIS Field Use Information Report. The report offers water utilities basic information about GIS data and the variety of ways it can be used for operations, planning and event response. It includes summaries of how GIS data can be used by water utilities, and provides comparisons of existing GIS software commonly used throughout the state by water utilities. This report should not be considered an endorsement by MassDEP of any particular GIS product or services. 

2019 Project Work:
Another $500,000 has been made available through the WMA program to continue this important work after MassDEP issued an RFI in October 2018 to again solicit PWS and POTW interest, which had a strong response.  In April 2019, MassDEP issued an RFQ that will build on past results and includes the following tasks.

  • Detailed GIS mapping for up to 40 water utilities. 
  • Continued statewide service area mapping.  Service area data provides a general view of existing drinking water and sewer service, and does not depict detailed critical infrastructure information.
  • On-site training for participating water utilities to assist with continued practical use and improvement of system infrastructure information.
  • Proposed costs for additional services to continue building upon work initiated under this project including assessment of GIS technical assistance for an additional 86 water systems that have indicated interest. 

Award Letter for 2019 PWS Mapping
Award Letter for 2019 WW Mapping
FY17 WURP-GIS Participants
FY18 WURP-GIS Participants
FY19/20 WURP-GIS Participants
FY21 WURP-GIS Participants
FY22 WURP-GIS Participants

Additional Resources for Critical Infrastructure GIS Mapping Initiative

Hazard Mitigation & Emergency Preparedness

WURP staff also serves as the MassDEP Drinking Water Program’s 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 Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation-funded ICS-200 classroom training
  • 2018 EPA-funded Drinking Water, Public Health and Healthcare Sectors Communication Springfield area workshop
  • 2019 EPA-funded Spill Response Workshop & Tabletop Exercise in Burlington, MA

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 recommends that water utilities participate in mutual-aid programs such as the Massachusetts Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (MaWARN) and Statewide Mutual Aid Agreement to send or request resources during emergency events, or the Public Works Mutual Aid Agreement for everyday purposes. See the links below for more information on how to join.

MaWARN: http://www.mawarn.org/
Mutual Aid: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/intrastate-mutual-aid

Did you know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers free online training for Introductory Incident Command System courses? Click below for the full course list and see the Independent Study section.


EPA has developed a variety of tools and guidance for both drinking water and wastewater preparedness and response. See the link below for further information.


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, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to ensure appropriate response to CyanoHAB events. MassDEP offered presentations on the subject of cyanobacteria at the Massachusetts Health Officers Association/MassDEP annual winter seminars, and the Massachusetts Water Works Association 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, the Governor 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, 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.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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 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

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