Developing a National Protocol for Drinking Water Advisory Decision-Making Process

Steve Via


The Drinking Water Advisory Protocol Project is developing a protocol for state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) agencies and water utilities to address situations that generate either system- or state-initiated drinking water advisories. The project focuses on scaling and targeting an advisory strategy for community water systems when they need to assure public awareness or issue a boil water notice, do-not-drink advisory, or precautionary advisory (e.g., flushing, recommendations for special populations, etc.).


The project addresses:

1.      Improved communication within and among relevant organizations (SLTT, utilities, public health, drinking water agencies).

2.      Improved collaboration within and among relevant organizations (SLTT, utilities, public health, environmental agencies)

3.      Improved targeting and use of communication channels including mass media.

4.      Improved exercise and assessment of communication and collaboration protocols.

5.      Increased capacity to respond to an intentional water contamination or terrorism event.


The project is a collaborative effort among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and American Water Works Association. An advisory committee composed of public health and drinking water agencies and drinking water utility experts advise and guide the project. Protocol development also engages a broad cross-section of relevant stakeholders and technical experts including local government, emergency response, and hazard communication experts. The project builds on available information from current local and state practices so the primary focus can be on the decision making and communication processes associated with issuing a drinking water advisory. The project is underway and the authors will report on the preliminary draft protocol and plans for integrating the protocol into day-to-day water system and public health agency practice.