Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities

Posted on: 8/30/2022 - Updated on: 8/30/2022

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With a user-friendly layout, embedded videos, and flood maps to guide you, EPA's Flood Resilience Guide is your one-stop resource to know your flooding threat and identify practical mitigation options to protect your critical assets.

Flooding is one of the most common hazards in the United States, causing more damage than any other severe weather-related event. 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.

For the water sector, “flood resilience” refers to the ability of water and wastewater utilities to withstand a flooding event, minimize damage and rapidly recover from disruptions to service. Utilities can build resilience by implementing mitigation measures. A mitigation measure can be an emergency planning activity, equipment modification/upgrade or new capital investment/construction project. Examples of mitigation measures include:

  1. Emergency response plan
  2. Barriers around key assets
  3. Elevated electrical equipment
  4. Emergency generators
  5. Bolted down chemical tanks

Implementing these mitigation measures requires financial investment by the utility; however, flood mitigation could prevent costly damage and enable the utility to provide more reliable service to customers during a disaster. To help pay for flood mitigation measures, a utility can also apply for federal disaster mitigation funds.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed this guide to help drinking water and wastewater utilities become more resilient to flooding.1 In the approach, the utility would examine the threat of flooding, determine impacts to utility assets and identify cost-effective mitigation options. This approach was successfully tested during a pilot project at a small drinking water system, the Berwick Water Department (BWD), in Berwick, Maine.

This guide is particularly useful for small and medium utilities. It provides easy-to-use worksheets with corresponding videos (based on the Berwick pilot). To increase your resilience to flooding, consider your utility’s priorities and available resources. Although this guide focuses on flood resilience, the same approach can be applied to enhancing resilience to other hazards (e.g., earthquakes, tornadoes).


    Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities. September 2014. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water.

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    The Environmental Protection Agency is an independent executive agency of the United States federal government tasked with environmental protection matters. The Environmental Protection Agency has ten Regional offices, each of which is responsible for the execution of the Agency's programs within several states and territories.