Creating the Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolbox
Our goal is to provide a protocol and practical toolbox for communicating with stakeholders and the public about water advisories that is based upon research and identified practices. The project focuses on water systems and addresses the range of situations that generate drinking water advisories.
This project was a collaborative effort among the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).
A technical workgroup of public health and drinking water agencies and drinking water system experts advised and guided the project. The project also engaged a broad cross-section of relevant stakeholders and technical experts including local government officials and emergency response and hazard communication experts.
This toolbox was reviewed by EPA and state primacy agencies. Every effort was made to ensure that the toolbox complies with the Public Notification Rule when necessary.
More than 500 documents, protocols, regulations, and other resources related to the issuing of drinking water advisories were compiled. Nearly 100 interviews were conducted with water systems, primacy agencies, and local public health departments in the United States and Canada.
These findings revealed:
- Advice to the public varies widely from state to state and community to community.
- Advisories are a common occurrence in some states and a rare event in others.
- Major events or disasters were the primary reasons for collaboration between drinking water systems and health departments.
- Terminology for advisories is inconsistent.
- Templates and advisory content are difficult to change or adapt to specific audiences or needs.
- The EPA Public Notification Handbook is the primary information source for drinking water advisories.
- Agency responsibilities for communicating with institutions, such as hospitals, schools, and restaurants, are highly variable.
- Good relationships between water systems and local public health departments are often dependent on established relationships between individuals.
- Local health departments may lack the resources or expertise to address drinking water issues.
- Local health departments are willing to be consulted by water systems when requested.
- Miller MD, Watson JC. New drinking water advisory communication toolbox [PDF – 3 pages]
J Environ Hlth. 2011;74:30-32.
- Webinar for States on the Drinking Water Advisory Toolbox
Access the February 12, 2012 webinar hosted by the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators to discuss the basic tools, how they were developed, and how they can be used.
Get email updates
To receive email updates about this page, enter your email address:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd
Atlanta, GA 30333
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC–INFO
- For more information, please contact us at healthywater@