Hurricanes, and downpours, and floods - oh my!
Water figures prominently in many natural disasters, both as a cause and as an effect. Heavy rain can cause floods, and hurricanes cause storm surges.
The past few months have seen heavy rains producing record-breaking and devastating flooding in many areas across the US and Canada, putting water supplies at risk, both in cities and in rural areas. And now hurricane season is just around the corner. So it’s a good time to look at the risks to drinking water posed by these natural disasters.
- Infrastructure can be damaged and treatment facilities can be overwhelmed.
- Wells can easily become flooded, introducing contaminated surface water or run-off.
- Septic system failure can occur as a result of saturated soil, introducing another source of drinking water contamination.
Hurricane season is coming
When Hurricanes Michael and Florence made landfall in 2018, as many as 640,000 private wells are estimated to have been flooded in just four states. Hurricane Harvey is estimated to have impacted well water quality for 12% of the population of Texas. Others in Texas were impacted because public water systems were inoperable, resulting in 170 boil-water advisories.
What’s in store for 2019? The NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for a near normal hurricane season with 4-8 hurricanes and 2-4 major hurricanes. So how can you help your customers prepare?
Keep drinking water safety top of mind - because your customers won't
In the middle of a natural disaster, most people are going to be focused on saving their loved ones and their homes. Drinking water safety is unlikely to be top of mind. That’s why it’s important for you to help your customers prepare for these increasingly common extreme weather events, and teach them what to do when the flood waters recede.
Here are some tips for hurricane preparedness (though it applies to most natural disasters) from NGWA’s Wellowner.org to pass on to your customers.
Before the Storm:
- Protect the wellhead and pump. Exposure to the elements can lead to damage from debris. This is largely a time and cost savings when it comes to getting the well back up and running.
- Protect electrical components from power surges.
- Fill the bathtub and sinks with water for toilet flushing or hand-washing.
Also, the CDC recommends having emergency food and water supplies. One approach for well owners would be to store water that has been disinfected, by a UV system, for example, in sanitary containers.