Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Kamal Alsharif, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Connie Mizak, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Philip Van Beynen, Ph.D.


Drinking water, Emergency response, Hurricanes, Preparation, Water management, Water quality


Severe storms can threaten the reliability and accessibility of drinking water supplies. The state of Florida is frequently impacted by hurricanes and is often struck more than once a year. An example of this can be found in 2017 when hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused much damage. Compromised utilities, well contamination, and shortages in bottled water and ice are just some of the problems that may threaten peoples’ drinking water.

Faced with these issues, preparation and response efforts must be effective in order to promote human health. Recent events like Hurricane Irma caused shortages in potable water which suggest the need for improvements in these efforts. The purpose of this study was to review management policies (for both preparations and responses) in dealing with potable water paucity caused by Hurricane Irma. Current efforts for managing potable water supplies were researched across selected counties in Florida. The effectiveness and deficiencies of these policies were analyzed. A survey was utilized to gain an understanding of the effects of these policies from the people’s perspective.

This study determined several issues with potable water management efforts in dealing with severe storms. These issues were: 1) Economic constraints preventing the obtainment of drinking water (particularly for the Hispanic ethnic group), 2) Lack of concern/care in keeping sanitary private well systems, 3) Policies to encourage locals to prepare to last three days without regular water supplies were inadequate since many people were left without water for far longer time periods, 4) Younger respondents experienced greater potable water shortages than the elderly, and 5) Many people who received emergency relief did not actually require aid. This study also identified potential improvements in both the short-term (emergency responses) and long-term (preparedness) management of drinking water in the face of hurricanes. Recommendations were made to address each of the found issues and ameliorate the management of potable water. These recommendations were: 1) To promote enforcement of anti-price gouging laws 2) Enhancing education on the importance of a sanitary well system. 3) Enhancing infrastructure and power by increasing redundancy, storage capacity, structural integrity, backup power and structural stability; and/or promote education informing locals to prepare for water shortages that last longer than three days 4) Encouraging younger residents to be more involved with their community elders 5) Relief efforts should be made more effective in reaching their targeted populations (those in true need of aid). The results of this research may be used to enhance potable water management plans to avoid suffering and loss of wellbeing in future hurricanes.