Communication Matters: A Study of Communication Between Emergency Managers and Water Systems Professionals Regarding Insufficient Access to Drinking Water
Date of Award
Doctor of Science (DSc) in Emergency Management
In 2021, the United States – specifically the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – declared its first-ever drinking water shortage for the Colorado River and the Hoover Dam, resulting in cuts to water access for the southwestern United States. Unfortunately, incidents like this one are increasingly likely to occur as access to drinking water has become a more pervasive issue that not only impacts the work of water systems professionals, but also impacts the field of emergency management and its practitioners. In addition, these incidents underscore the need to put a spotlight on communication processes between water systems professionals and emergency managers.
This study has the following aims. First, to explore the communication processes between emergency managers and water systems professionals to better understand and learn if and how the two groups communicate about their respective organizational efforts regarding insufficient drinking water access. Second, to determine that if the two groups are communicating, then what are their current communication processes and how are their communication processes working to collaborate with each other to coordinate efforts. And to determine if the two groups are not communicating, then what can both groups respectively do better to create efficient and effective communication process. These aims focus on the distinguishing role of each practitioner group in dealing with the issue of insufficient access to drinking water.
This explorative case study uses semi-structured, qualitative interviews with two respective groups of study participants – emergency managers and water systems professionals – and a document review of public-facing government documents to explore communication channels between these two groups to learn more about if and how they communicate regarding the mitigation of issues associated with insufficient access to drinking water. Findings from this study may be useful to better inform the practice of emergency management, as well as for the practice of water systems management.