Emergency Water Assistance

Drought distressed areas or areas with a contaminated water supply

Published June 5, 2012
Administering Agency: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
Contact:: Readiness Branch,  Omaha District, (402) 995-2448 or (402) 995-2446
(24-hour emergency number)
Statute: Public Law 84-99, as amended
Assistance Available: USACE is authorized to transport emergency supplies of clean drinking water for human consumption to any locality designated as a drought distressed or contaminated area and to construct wells in such distressed areas. Assistance will only be to meet minimum public health and welfare requirements. 
Form of Assistance: Emergency supply of clean drinking water for human consumption and construction of wells (at state/local expense) if not commercially possible. Transportation of water normally provided by tank trucks or small diameter pipelines. 

Any locality faced with a threat to public health and welfare from a drought or contaminated water situation affecting the water system. Maximum contaminant level or treatment technique (EPA rule under Safe Drinking Act) is exceeded; or water supply has been identified as a source of illness by public health official; or an emergency (e.g. flood, chemical spill) occurred that resulted in contaminant(s) entering source of a sufficient scale to endanger health; or the equipment necessary to remove contaminants has been made inoperable; or the presence of contaminant(s) is indicated by other available information. The impacted area must have been declared a “drought distressed area” by the Governor and/or Tribal Chairman and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

Qualifying Requirements:

Water distribution system may be publicly or privately owned. State, Tribal, and local agencies must make full use of their own resources, including the National Guard. Requests for assistance to USACE must be initiated by the Governor or his/her authorized representative or Tribal Chairman. Request must address commitments, capabilities and efforts undertaken to date. Must identify the specific needs and the required USACE assistance. Must identify additional State/Tribal/ Local commitments. Must identify the project’s sponsors. A Project Information Report is required with approval from HQUSACE.


USACE assistance is supplemental to Tribal, State and local efforts. Permanent restoration of water supply is a local responsibility. Applicants must furnish lands, easements, and right-of-way; make necessary relocations and hold the U.S. free from damages. Purchase and storage costs are not eligible for USACE assistance.


Application for program assistance will be made to the USACE District in the appropriate area of responsibility, but assistance is subject to approval at HQUSACE level. The impacted area must have been declared a “drought distressed area” by the Governor or Tribal Chairman, and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.


USACE assistance will be the minimum needed consistent with health and welfare requirements of the affected population. Quantity and means of distribution determined by USACE, considering the situation, community needs, and cost effectiveness of available options. If community has multiple sources of water, USACE will provide only the amount that the remaining sources, with conservation, cannot provide. Loss of water is not a basis for assistance, only if it is affected by drought or contamination. Water is not furnished for commercial purposes. However, drinking water can be provided for employees, and on-site customers. Water is provided only for human consumption, not for livestock.