Water Supply Resilience

Why It Matters

A reliable, sufficient supply of clean, safe, affordable water is essential to the life of communities and the function of our water infrastructure. We must manage water supply, a finite resource, and safeguard customers’ long-term needs. In some regions, concerns about long-term water scarcity and water quality are increasing stakeholder expectations that American Water must protect this valuable resource and ensure we maintain their access to clean, safe water into the future. The risks posed by climate change increase pressure to plan for and address Water Supply Resilience.


Our Approach

Protecting drinking water at its source is an essential part of a multi-barrier approach—along with treatment and distribution—to provide reliable, clean water to our customers.

We begin by selecting a high-quality supply to meet anticipated long-term needs. We conduct holistic risk and resiliency assessments that consider ESG issues. We also work to identify and mitigate potential future threats to existing sources of supply through planning, implementation and outreach efforts. Whether the potential risk is due to natural hazards, such as droughts or flooding, accidental contamination, or even malevolent threats, American Water’s goal is to maintain adequate and high-quality water supplies.

Water Availability

To safeguard our long-term water supply, we promote conservation throughout our value chain, work to minimize water leakage throughout our infrastructure and utilize water reuse strategies in areas of limited supply. In addition, we use technology and innovation coupled with customer education and O&M efficiency to ensure reliable water supply to customers.

One of our greatest challenges is securing supplemental water supply, especially in water stressed areas. American Water uses innovative approaches to address these needs. For example, in Bel Air, Maryland, we constructed a reservoir to capture and store water diverted from the source during high flow to be used during droughts.

We use our expertise to help manage water supply, a finite resource, and safeguard customers’ long-term needs.

In California, we were able to significantly decrease the size of our future desalination plant by using reclaimed water from the local aquifer. Our construction of the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project in Monterey, California highlights our innovative use of specialized technology. For more details, refer to the highlight story on page 79 of this report, or visit the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project website.

Desalination Plant

Desalination Plant

Ensuring a long-term supply of high-quality water is important for residents and businesses in California. To protect threatened species that live in the Carmel River—on which communities in the Monterey Peninsula in California rely—the state of California placed limits on water withdrawal. Further, a court order mandated that water use from the Seaside Groundwater Basin, the only other source of water for Monterey Peninsula communities, must also decline.

California American Water is working to develop a replacement water source to address the limitations on these water sources—a desalination plant on the Monterey Peninsula, along with a recycling and reuse project. It will provide increased water access for residents and businesses in the area. At this plant, we are employing innovative technologies to decrease the plant’s environmental impact, improve water quality and decrease the amount of treatment the salt water requires in an otherwise treatment intense process. Energy recovery devices will lower the plant’s power consumption and slant intake wells help avoid impacts on marine life. These innovations are making our processes more efficient and environmentally safe, saving the company and our customer’s money.

For more details, refer to the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project website.

Protecting Our Supplies in the Mid-Atlantic

Protecting Our Supplies in the Mid-Atlantic

American Water’s Mid-Atlantic Division has a dedicated team focused on identifying and mitigating risks to sources of supply for the 75 water systems we operate across Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A key aspect of the program is the development and implementation of source water protection plans. These plans outline specific activities to address potential issues that may affect each drinking water supply source. Activities include source water assessments, potential source of contamination mapping, monitoring, contingency planning and community outreach.

Outreach and education is an important part of source water protection. The Mid-Atlantic team collaborates with community partners on water supply planning efforts and engages in local events to educate the public about water resources. They work to establish communications directly with upstream commercial and industrial facilities to help others understand how their operations can impact drinking water supplies.

Our Pennsylvania team works closely with local and state conservation partners on agricultural practices designed to improve water quality. As a result, the Swatara Creek watershed in central Pennsylvania was selected as one of the first round of pilot projects under the new National Water Quality Initiative Source Water Protection program for 2019.

Our employees also play a key role in protecting water resources. They live and work in the communities and have a vested interest in quality water—not only for drinking, but also for economic, social and recreational purposes. Employee engagement is a core component of our program and involves a range of activities from hands-on training to participation in local events.

In 2018, West Virginia American Water partnered with the City of Charleston, Clean Harbors and Habitat for Humanity Restore to host a household hazardous waste collection event called Clean Streams. This provided local residents the opportunity to properly dispose of unwanted household chemicals to keep them out of drains and waterways. The event collected over 20,000 pounds of household hazardous materials from more than 200 community participants. Everyone that attended the event received information on source water protection, as well as guidance on how to properly dispose of household hazardous waste at any time.

We are proud of the dedication displayed by our colleagues in the mid-Atlantic to ensure the protection of our future water supplies.

Improving Water Efficiency

Part of protecting long-term water supply is improving water efficiency and promoting water conservation by our operations staff educating our customers, and by minimizing water loss in our distribution systems. American Water works to address Non-Revenue Water as a source of water supply, since improving water efficiency both mitigates risk and enables us to postpone new investments. We focus on distribution system leak detection and installing hydrant-based sensor-nodes throughout our systems. At our treatment plants, we capture and reuse water from plant processes where practical. We also operate several smaller projects in specific states, using purple piping for reuse for irrigation. See Water Use & Efficiency for additional information.

Both water and water stress can be local issues, and it is our obligation as the largest water and wastewater provider to deliver safe, reliable and consistent service to all of our customers, regardless of geographic location. We define Water Stressed Areas as systems or specific supply points of entry that have been

impacted by water rights reductions or water availability due to saltwater intrusion threat and/or drought limitations, such that alternative supplies have been or will need to be developed in the short term. This predominantly applies to the following areas within our service footprint: California, New York, New Jersey’s coastal regions and western Missouri. In 2019, our New York American Water operations began implementation of a system-wide water conservation program. We are deploying smart irrigation technology designed to improve efficiency and reduce consumption of outdoor water usage. This will reduce demand on stressed aquifers that provide the main supply of water for Long Island, New York.

In addition to the conservation program, our tiered block rate structure has increased conservation by our customers. Under this pricing structure, the cost per unit of water increases as the customer uses more water. Together, these efforts allow New York American Water to postpone capacity-driven capital projects, thereby minimizing rate impacts to customers.

Partnerships to Protect Watersheds

Partnerships to Protect Watersheds

At a local level, we also have partnerships with a variety of entities, including river basin commissions and several community groups to help protect watersheds. We offer an environmental grants program that distributes awards to local watershed groups. Engagement with watershed groups helps protect the quality of water supplies through awareness of activities and protection programs, and enables improved communications with stakeholders. Such efforts can provide early warning of contamination events that may impact our intake facilities. We also work with several organizations at the national level. See our Policy Influence section for more details.


Our Senior Vice President, Chief Environmental & Operational Excellence Officer, has ultimate accountability for Water Supply Resilience. Facilities engineering, operations and individual state Presidents are also responsible for our performance.

Our Board of Directors’ Safety, Environmental, Technology & Operations Committee receives quarterly briefings on risks to our service and supplies from natural hazards, such as drought and loss of supply due to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or storms.

Our Performance

To help ensure we are effectively managing our water supply, we track water withdrawal by source, usage trends, water loss and allocation compliance. By tracking these metrics, we gain a greater understanding of our water usage and consumption. We are also able to identify best practices to spread across our network, which will further improve our resiliency.

Kanawha River Study

Kanawha River Study

In West Virginia, we commissioned a detailed engineering report to evaluate options for alternate sources of water supply, including backup intakes, raw water storage tanks and reservoirs, interconnections with other water systems and groundwater supplies. The report presents the available options for each of our water treatment plants, along with an estimate of the capital investment that would be required to implement each option. We have also constructed two new four-million-gallon tanks in Amandaville to provide additional storage for the Kanawha Valley system.

As part of this report, we conducted water and sediment sampling at several locations along the Kanawha River to evaluate its suitability as a secondary source of supply for the Kanawha Valley Treatment Plant. A total of 24 sampling events were conducted from June 2015 to June 2016 with comprehensive laboratory analyses for over 200 different chemicals and indicator parameters. For more information about this study, click here.