Skip to Content
Questions or Comments:

Homeland Security for PWS: Disaster and Recovery

Homeland security disaster and recovery information for Public Water Systems.

Resources for natural disaster preparedness are available on the TCEQ Natural Disaster Preparedness webpage. Being prepared for a natural disaster is the first step in minimizing damages and losses, and ensuring non-interruption of critical services. Guidance is available on general preparation, best practices for grounds and common areas, administration and laboratory buildings, treatment plant and pumping stations and additional drinking water guidance.

TCEQ has an online form for PWSs to submit the current stage of drought contingency they are implementing. Information collected will be used to focus State resources and assistance. The data provided on this form is available on the TCEQ List of Texas PWSs Limiting Water Use to Avoid Shortages webpage.

After a flood, drinking water sources may be contaminated - be safe before you drink the water. TCEQ has information for PWS operators, customers of PWSs and private well owners at TCEQ’s After the Flood: Is your Water Safe to Drink webpage.

When is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) required to be contacted [30 TAC §290.46(w) Security]?

All systems shall maintain internal procedures to notify the executive director by a toll-free reporting phone number immediately of the following events, if the event may negatively impact the production or delivery of safe and adequate drinking water:

  1. an unusual or unexplained unauthorized entry at the property of the public water system;
  2. an act of terrorism against the public water system;
  3. an unauthorized attempt to probe for or gain access to proprietary information that supports the key activities of the public water system;
  4. a theft of property that supports the key activities of the public water system; or
  5. a natural disaster, accident, or act that results in damage to the public water system.

Always contact your local law enforcement to report any type of suspicious or criminal behavior involving a public water system. TCEQ toll-free Water/Wastewater System Homeland Security Threat Hot Line (888-777-3186).

What type of offense is tampering with a PWS?

Tampering with a public water system is a federal offense under Federal Statute, Title 42 United States Code 300i-1 , the maximum penalty is up to 20 years prison term, and a maximum fine up to $1 million dollars.

Tampering with a public water system is also a state offense under Texas Statute, Title 5 Texas Penal Code 22.07 Terroristic Threat (a)(4)  and Title 7 Texas Penal Code 28.03 Criminal Mischief (a)(1), (2), and (3) , the state maximum penalty is up to 10 years prison term, and a maximum fine up to $10,000 dollars.

Always contact your local law enforcement to report any type of suspicious or criminal behavior involving a public water system. TCEQ toll-free Water/Wastewater System Homeland Security Threat Hot Line (888-777-3186).

Who do you call if your PWS needs assistance in recovering from a natural disaster or accident?

For equipment and expertise such as pumps, generators, electricians, and certified operator assistance register with TXWARN  for free.  TXWARN supports and promotes statewide emergency preparedness, disaster response, and mutual aid assistance for public and private water and wastewater utilities.

Surface water plants needing technical assistance can contact the TCEQ’s Water Supply Division at (512) 239-4691 and request to speak to a member of the Response and Capacity Development Team.

For other resources contact your local Emergency Management Coordinator.  In Texas, Mayors and County Judges have responsibility for emergency preparedness and response within their local jurisdictions.

To learn more about Homeland Security and the State of Texas go to the Texas Government Code Chapter 421 Homeland Security .

How do I update my Emergency Contact Information or update my emergency contact information with the TCEQ?

Emergency contact information is required to be updated whenever a water system changes emergency response staff. A PWS can check who they have listed for responding to an emergency on behalf of their water system by going to Texas Drinking Water WatchInstructions are available on how to verify the Contact Information for your PWS.

Updates to emergency contacts can be submitted using the TCEQ Homeland Security PWS Emergency Contact Update Form mailed to all public water systems every two years or anytime using the online TCEQ Public Water System Emergency Contact Update Form.

What is an EPA Emergency Response Plan (ERP) and who is required to provide certification to EPA?

An EPA ERP  is required to be developed or updated by all community water systems serving more than 3,300 population and certification must be made to the EPA as a result of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018  (AWIA) Section 2013, which was signed into law on October 23, 2018. ERPs are a federal government requirement overseen by the EPA and are required to be updated every 5 years. 

Electrical outages can occur at any time and without notification. Due to high demand on the electrical grid during hot summer days or winter storms, there is a potential for rolling blackouts which could impair or impact a PWS ability to sufficiently treat and distribute water. Being prepared for these events is the first step in minimizing damages and losses and ensuring non-interruption of critical services. TCEQ recommends the following tips to prepare your public water system for these types of events.

Communication and Coordination

  • Contact electric providers to designate your water system as a Critical Load Customer  and make sure you receive confirmation that your system is added as a critical load customer. Communicate with your electric provider about prioritization for returning service to critical load customers when power is lost. (Critical Load Customer Applications for Transmission and Distribution Utilities in Competitive Retail Areas - CenterPoint Energy , AEP , Oncor , Texas-New Mexico Power )
  • Ensure your Drought Contingency Plan is up-to-date and includes triggers and contingencies for electrical power outages and rolling blackouts. Provide public education to customers on the triggers and stages of the drought contingency plan.
  • Promote water and energy conservation with customers, especially during the hottest summer months. Inform customers that during extended power outages lasting more than a few hours, water service may be interrupted.
  • Become familiar with the procedures to request assistance and resources from state and county officials and departments:
  • Register for mutual aid such as TXWARN  or your local utility mutual aid group.

Infrastructure and Preparedness

  • Ensure critical automation (e.g., SCADA, etc.) and monitoring (e.g., remote level indicators, transducers, etc.) equipment are backed up with Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS). Develop a plan for periodically re-charging these units with an alternate source of power during prolonged outages.
  • Ensure critical equipment is protected from electrical surge damage with surge protecting devices.
  • Inspect, test, and verify electrical generators and automatic transfer switches are properly working on a weekly basis. Verify there is enough fuel and the fuel has not degraded. The quality of fuel is not perpetual and can degrade over time. In general, to prolong the life of the quality of stored diesel fuel, it should:
  • Inspect, test and verify electrical transfer switches (electrical grid to generator) are operational on a monthly basis.
  • Inspect, test, and verify switchgears are maintained and operational (dual electrical feeds).
  • Procure/locate electrical spare parts/components (e.g., breakers, fuses, etc.).
  • Increase operational coverage to allow for manual control during loss of automation and to verify treatment facilities and equipment are operational.
  • Create a customized checklist of your equipment to inspect when electricity comes back online. Here are some types of equipment that should be verified (you may have others):
    • Chemical feed pumps (check for prime)
    • Breakers, relays, fuses and electrical switches
    • Automation and signaling controls (confirm connectivity)
    • Treatment units with electronic motor controls
  • Make sure your PWSs infrastructure is working and in water-tight condition.
  • Inspect your plant perimeter(s) for security concerns, test backup lights, and check backup pumps and controls.
  • Continue regular preventative maintenance, check backup chemical feeders, pumps and motors. Verify that spare pumps, motors, and other necessary spare parts are available. Check manual controls and oil levels.
  • Review distribution maps to ensure they are up to date with isolation valves properly identified. Extra copies may be necessary for staff working in the field.
  • Exercise valves yearly during spring or fall when outages are less likely.
  • Prepare public notice templates for quick distribution. This could be drought contingency plan stages or boil water notices.

When rolling blackouts are anticipated

Many PWSs can maintain water pressure in their distribution systems during a power outage that lasts a few hours provided steps to conserve water usage are taken. During rolling blackouts, use power wisely when available by:

  • Replenishing storage (ground and elevated) and ensuring that water is not being wasted unnecessarily. (As previously recommended, contact customers regarding curtailment on practices such as outside watering, car washing, laundry or dishwashing, limited showers or baths, and reduced toilet flushing).
  • Pause all flushing activities. Flushing should happen during off-hours when demand for water and electricity is low.
  • Request reduced demand from high-usage customers.
  • During extended power outages, protect electronic panels and components (those needing a controlled climate) from excessive heat with fans operated by battery or alternate sources of power (e.g., generator).
  • If a rolling blackout causes a PWS to lose the ability to maintain an adequate disinfectant residual, a loss of pressure, or other condition which indicate that the potability of the drinking water supply could be compromised, a boil water notice is required within 24 hours. Boil Water Notice Templates are available in English and Spanish.

Additional Online Resources

The EPA has developed a  Power Resilience Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities . The purpose of this guide is to promote coordination and communication between water sector utilities and their electric and gas utilities; provide information on how to build power resilience using generators, fuel supply planning, on-site power, microgrids and other methods; highlight case studies from water utilities that have successfully implemented power resilience measures; and identify planning considerations and resources for both short (e.g., 2-3 days) and long (e.g., several weeks) duration power outages.

Like other critical infrastructure, the water sector can be a target of cybersecurity threats and hazards. Implementing cybersecurity best practices is critical for public water systems. Managing cybersecurity is a complex challenge that requires an interdisciplinary, risk-based approach, involving an organization’s business leaders, as well as their technical and legal advisors. It is recommended that all public water systems review their system controls and identify any actions they can take to strengthen their own cyber security.

Cybersecurity resources can be found at the following websites:

Any security breaches, either cyber or physical, should be reported to the TCEQ at