Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Science (DSc) in Emergency Management

Department

Emergency Management

Committee Chair

Tanveer Islam

Abstract

Public water systems are an integral part of community infrastructure. Drinking water contamination or service disruptions have the potential to cause economic losses, limit fire suppression capability, and result in human illnesses. Until 2016, the United States federal government had not issued a disaster declaration due to contaminated water. The first federal drinking water disaster declaration due to contaminated water serves as a sentinel event demonstrating the need to increase focus on public water systems during all phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery. Previous studies evaluating risks to vulnerable populations associated with drinking water primarily utilized qualitative research techniques. This study compiles and analyzes data from three databases to quantitatively evaluate potential public water system characteristics that may lead to increased risk. Two of the three databases are maintained by the federal government, while the third is maintained by a nonprofit organization. Historically, it has been assumed that smaller systems and systems in disadvantaged communities would experience lower water quality. This study presents a method to quantitatively evaluate these types of hypotheses. This study evaluates data from public water systems within the states of Illinois and Texas. The results indicate that smaller water systems are more likely to receive regulatory violations than larger systems. In addition, the results suggest that communities with a higher social vulnerability index are more likely to experience elevated levels of nitrate.

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