Hurricane Harvey’s impacts to Houston were devastating, with tragic loss of life and massive loss of property. The members of the Association of Water Board Directors (AWBD) join the millions of others across the nation who grieve the loss of lives and the destruction of property, some of which can never be recovered. AWBD continues to be pro-active in seeking ways to help in the recovery process. In this regard, Houston area Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs) and other water districts intend to remain focused on the serious responsibility to plan and prepare for natural disasters, particularly hurricanes.
After Hurricane Ike, AWBD formed a Disaster Preparedness Committee to evaluate disaster preparedness and response and make recommendations for improvements. Much of the work focused on the need to maintain electrical power at water plants and water facilities. To that end, AWBD recommended that the state approve legislation to better ensure power for water facilities.
AWBD worked with then-Senator Dan Patrick and then-Representative Bill Callegari to support and pass Senate Bill 361 in 2009. S.B. 361 was landmark legislation, providing a comprehensive framework detailing best practices for defending against extended power outages after natural disasters. S.B. 361 focused on water utilities of all types in certain Houston area counties – initially Harris and Fort Bend counties, and later Montgomery County.
S.B. 361 provides a formal process for planning for natural disasters and adopting official Emergency Preparedness Plans. Water utilities are required to provide back-up power for the operation of the water system, typically using onsite auxiliary generators.
S.B. 361 also provides a framework for communication among water utilities, the county, the state, and electric utilities. The goal is to identify critical water facilities that should receive priority when efforts are underway to maintain and restore electrical power. This communication framework has proven extremely beneficial for water utilities and the people they serve.
The result of S.B. 361 is that water utilities are better prepared for extended power outages following hurricanes. No system is foolproof, but the framework provided by S.B. 361 is a solid foundation for disaster preparedness. Houston area MUDs and water districts were well prepared for Hurricane Harvey.
MUDs and other water districts play a crucial role in providing water, wastewater, and drainage service and facilities. Approximately 2.7 million people live in water districts in the Houston region.
AWBD is a statewide association of MUDs and other water districts. AWBD member water districts provide water, sewer, and drainage infrastructure to millions of Texans.