COVID-19 Resources for Water

 

This webpage contains multiple resources to help guide water professionals on how to respond to different situations during the COVID pandemic. Please contact us immediately if your utility experiences operational difficulties.

 

    Can COVID-19 Spread in Drinking Water, Wastewater, or Reclaimed Water?

    The World Health Organization states that the “presence of the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies and based on current evidence the risk to water supplies is low.” EPA’s drinking water regulations require treatment at public water systems to remove or kill pathogens including viruses. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “at this time, the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low. Although transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewage may be possible, there is no evidence to date that this has occurred.” CDC will update this guidance as new evidence is assessed. The CDC also says “coronaviruses are susceptible to the same disinfection conditions in community and healthcare settings as other viruses, so current disinfection conditions in wastewater treatment facilities are expected to be sufficient.”  This means that it is important to keep up with routine maintenance, especially when it includes disinfection. You can find the CDC’s page on COVID-19 and municipal water here.

    Reclaimed water, also called recycled water, is wastewater that is treated to a certain level to be reused for other purposes safely. For example, cities and counties may use reclaimed water to irrigate landscapes.

     

    The risk of getting exposed to COVID-19 through reclaimed water is low. Treated municipal wastewater, the source of reclaimed water, is disinfected and has been proven to inactivate other viruses — viruses that are more resistant to disinfection methods than coronaviruses. To learn more, check out the division’s “Information on COVID-19 and Treated Wastewater and Reclaimed Water” document.

    Cybersecurity threats


    Recent cybersecurity attacks on government agencies, water utilities, and other industries have impacted water utilities in Colorado, Wyoming, and other parts of the United States. The threat is real, and the division encourages all water/wastewater utilities to double check their facility’s security status. 
     

    The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recommends taking these steps to protect your facility from cyberattacks:

    • Back up data, system images, and configurations and keep the backups offline
    • Update and patch systems
    • Make sure your security solutions are up to date
    • Review and exercise your incident response plan 
    • Pay attention to ransomware events apply lessons learned

    Connect with the Division

    We also send out regular updates to impacted stakeholders. A list of all our email list-serves for select topics can be found on our stakeholder webpage. By signing up for these notifications, you will receive emails about policy changes, rule making changes, and other important information. Register for our COVID-19 water/wastewater operator updates here 

    The Water Quality Control Division is committed to keeping regulated water and wastewater entities and stakeholders informed about this pandemic. Since the onset of COVID-19 in Colorado, the division has pushed forward different platforms to share information, guidance documents and other tools to help entities navigate these challenging times. Our action plan lists these different activities. Should you have any questions or ideas for us to consider, please email cdphe.commentswqcd@state.co.us

    New information is being generated very quickly about COVID-19 and we want to make sure all your questions are answered. 


    If you don’t see your question answered on this webpage or in the FAQ, please email us at cdphe.commentswqcd@state.co.us

    Continuity of Operations Toolbox for Water/Wastewater Utilities

    Water and Wastewater Services are Essential!
    The state considers water and wastewater as "essential critical infrastructure workers" during the COVID-19 response. This means that water and wastewater systems have a special responsibility to continue normal operations as modified to account for the CDC workforce and customer protection guidance.  For more information on the definition of essential critical infrastructure workers, visit the state's COVID-19 webpage.

    Below are a number of resources and tools to help guide water professionals on how to ensure continuity of operations during the COVID pandemic. These resources are based off of the EPA’s Pandemic Incident Action Checklist. Please contact us immediately if your utility experiences operational difficulties

    Please visit our Latest Water Utility COVID-19 Resources document for the most up-to-date resources available to water utilities. 

    Emergency and continuity of operations plans (COOP) are critical tools for processes are in place to ensure critical functions continue and that personnel and resources are available. Below are some templates available to water and wastewater utilities to use.

     

    Emergency Response Plans Templates

     

    Continuity of Operations Plans

     

    Sequestration Plans

    Bleach Supplies 


    Here are some resources in the event that bleach cannot be easily sourced:

    • The Colorado Rural Water Association has worked in the past with systems to secure bleach supplies. Please contact them if you are having issues and cannot get bleach from any of the resources listed.  
    • Share this summary document  with retail stores to help educate them on the use and importance of disinfection products like bleach. 
    • Co-WARN: If resource needs arise for any reason, this utility run network provides water and wastewater utilities with the means to quickly obtain help in the form of personnel, equipment, materials and associated services from other utilities to restore critical operations impacted during any type of emergency, big or small. It is free to join.
    • Below is a list of suppliers that indicate they have bleach and that businesses or utilities can add to by filling out this form

    Suppliers that may have bleach
    Note this page provides links to external websites that are not related to, are not the property of, or the responsibility of the State of Colorado. Upon the selection of a link you will leave the website. The State of Colorado is not responsible for the content of the linked web pages or the dependability, accuracy or information security of these sites. The State of Colorado does not endorse or sponsor the companies, products or services that may be offered at these websites nor should such an endorsement be implied. The links are not listed in any particular order of importance.

    If you’re a business that can supply bleach, sign up here, and we’ll update the website on a periodic basis. 

     

    Company Name Website Phone number
    Treatment Tech www.treatmenttech.net (303) 816-1114
    Thatcher Chemical www.tchem.com (800) 348-0034
    DPC Industries www.dxgroup.com (800) 445-0533
    Restaurant Supply www.restaurantsupply.com (855) 838-1010
    Clean-it-Supply www.cleanitsupply.com (855) 847-1202
    Quill www.quill.com (800) 982.3400
    USA Blue Book www.usabluebook.com (800) 548-1234

     

    Utilities Resource and Assistance Sharing

    If resource needs arise for any reason, this utility run network provides water and wastewater utilities with the means to quickly obtain help in the form of personnel, equipment, materials and associated services from other utilities to restore critical operations impacted during any type of emergency, big or small. It is free to join.

    • CoWARN webpage: Visit this webpage to start sharing resources, ask for assistance or sign up to join the network. 

    Organizations such as Colorado Rural Water Association (CRWA) and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) may be able to provide technical assistance through water and wastewater personnel (also called Circuit Riders) that may work onsite with utility system personnel to troubleshoot problems and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. They may not be able to provide extended coverage but may be available to assist as necessary.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Drinking Water Local Assistance Unit provides remote operational and regulatory training on a variety of subjects. Certified water professionals will be awarded training units that can be used to meet continuing education requirements.

    Protecting employees while maintaining critical infrastructure is a priority. All water and wastewater personnel should continue to wear normal PPE and follow basic hygiene protective measures. According to the CDC, wastewater personnel specifically should not need to wear additional protective gear other than their standard personal protective equipment and again, following basic hygiene precautions. We continuously evaluate any new CDC guidance and determine if it’s guidance we should follow at the state.

     

    If you are in need of personal protection equipment, we encourage entities to join CoWARN and ask for assistance from other utility members. If that is not adequate, requests can be made through the particular county representatives who are connected with the State Emergency Operations Center.

    Face Masks

    Face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the amount and distance infectious particles can spread through partially filtering the particles. In addition, new evidence suggests masks may also partially protect the wearer, especially from severe infection, by potentially reducing the exposure to COVID-19 airborne droplets and/or preventing you from touching your face. The department has provided updated mask guidance with more information.

     

    If you don’t have masks in stock even though it’s part of your standard PPE, then the state is encouraging critical workers to use homemade masks whenever you are outside your own house or yard as basic personal prevention and preparation tactics. Note N-95 masks are low in supply and so it’s important to keep these reserved for medical professionals who are at high risk. If you happen to have an N-95 mask, then follow the manual instructions to replace the respirator. If respirators are short in supply, then as a last resort, follow the CDC’s Decontamination and Reuse of Filter Facepiece Respirator guidance. 

     

    Other Resources

     

    For operators interested in helping other systems 

    As long as a system has an Operator Response in Charge certified at the appropriate level in Colorado, then non-certified operators and out-of-state operators can work for a system under the direction of the Operator Response in Charge. This requires a written operating plan that covers the delegation of operator duties. 

    Operator Certification

    At this point, there is not an option to take operator certification exams remotely. The Water and Wastewater Facilities Operators Certification Board and its contractors are exploring options in the future but there are no immediate plans to change the way tests are delivered. As updates develop, information will be posted soon to the board's website. You can also visit PSI’s website as they regularly update this webpage with information about exams. 

    Operators are still able to meet their training unit requirements through online webinars or online courses. You can learn more about these online courses through this summary

    Laboratories

    The department is continuously evaluating system operations across the state and lab availability. Public Water Systems systems must use a Colorado-certified lab to analyze compliance samples.

    Colorado certified drinking water labs: This list of labs include out-of-state labs that are Colorado certified. This list does not reflect whether or not labs are in operation so we recommend calling the lab directly.

    Free communication materials are available to municipalities and to the public to share. These communication materials include graphics for social media, public service announcements, language to use for websites, letters, or other communication tactics. 

    Free to share communication materials: We are continuously updating and creating communication materials for a wide variety of topics so stay tuned. We just recently posted communication materials on “Toilet is not a trash can” messaging. 
     

    If you have communication materials to share, please email cdphe.commentswqcd@state.co.us