– Executive Summary –
Every year the federal government must coordinate hurricane recovery and relief efforts, such as providing shelter, food, and water, to address basic human needs following a natural disaster. An essential resource for human survival is water, and when a hurricane strikes, basic utilities may be destroyed, leaving individuals without water for several days. To minimize the impact on affected areas, emergency management personnel provide clean water for individuals until services are restored and proven safe for consumption. While people wait for the resumption of service, emergency managers provide water using water purification tractor trailers to provide on-site water purification and the shipment of thousands of pallets of bottled water from other areas for distribution.
These methods and techniques currently in place for delivering water in emergencies have been tried and tested over many years, but breakthroughs in nanotechnology show promise for improving water filtration and hurricane response. Advancements in nanotechnology could assist in addressing the innovative and cost-effective response for emergency water supplies, yet the federal government has not yet connected the use of nanotechnology as a beneficial resource for improving emergency management efforts.
This thesis provides an understanding of nanotechnology-based water filtration along with its benefits and challenges. Second, the research explores the current framework for emergency management to include the statutes regulating water resources during an emergency and current water allocation techniques. Third, the Hurricane Maria case study provides a real-world analysis of the current emergency management and how nanotechnology-based water filtration could reduce response time, financial burden, and improve the overall federal response. Finally, the research concludes with recommendations and ways to overcome foreseeable issues on the adoption of nanotechnology.
Currently, the scientific community recognizes the benefits of nanotechnology for improving water filtration and continues to explore new materials and methods to effectively provide clean, safe drinking water to individuals around the world. While individuals opposed to nanotechnology still believe there are some unknown environmental and personal health risks, researchers have not found any significant disadvantages, and continued research and development have lead manufactures to develop commercially viable nanotechnology-based water filtration. These new commercial products have successfully been deployed to individuals without sufficient water resources around the world. These products provide a low-cost, long-term solution for providing clean, safe drinking water to the community. Individuals and communities in the aftermath of the hurricane find themselves in similar circumstances, and nanotechnology-based water filtration could be used to effectively mitigate emergency response issues. Such areas as emergency management are in an ideal position to benefit from the continued innovation and development of nanotechnology-based water filtration.
The current methods for providing clean, safe drinking water used by the federal government include water trucks and mobile filtration, boiling and bleaching, and prepackaged water. The difficult challenge in managing effective emergency preparedness is the inability of governments to fully anticipate the full effects of disasters on food, water, and health supplies. As it stands, the statutory framework for emergency management procedures allow for the potential incorporation of nanotechnology in emergency response. However, current methods undertaken by the federal government do not rely on nanotechnology. Instead, the federal government uses methods that insufficiently meet the needs of citizens in need of water after enduring devastating hurricanes. The new developments in nanotechnology-based water filtration show promise in saving both time and money.
Using available data from Hurricane Maria, an evaluation of current methods for providing emergency water supplies provides a real-world scenario to determine the effectiveness of current methods. Through a series of both foreseen and unforeseen challenges, the local government and FEMA struggled to provide adequate water to the citizen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Problems ranged from a lack of planning, geographic and temporal challenges, distribution failures, destroyed infrastructure, and the subsequent high costs. Even if the emergency response to Hurricane Maria had been well organized, issues with time delays and high costs would have still been enormously challenging. The lessons learned from the Hurricane Maria case study are that current methods used to distribute water in the wake of a damaging hurricane are insufficient for resolving water shortages in an efficient, timely, and effective manner.
The federal government should adopt nanotechnology-based water filtration as an innovative solution to address the need for clean water in the aftermath of a hurricane. Primarily, use of nanotechnology will save time, money, is technologically feasible, and is allowable under current federal regulations. The above analysis demonstrates that nanotechnology-based water filtration will drastically reduce the amount of time and money required to provide adequate amounts of water filtration to individuals in affected areas following a damaging hurricane. Furthermore, the adoption of nanotechnology will assist the federal government in effectively and efficiently fulfilling the requirements of the Stafford Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. Together, FEMA, EPA and the NNI should collaborate to improve federal emergency management measures and to ensure safe and clean water for all in need. Through this collaboration, the federal government can avoid another case like Hurricane Maria while saving time, money, and human lives.