Water security and emergency preparedness

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Water security consists of the systems and actions required to protect a water supply from natural disasters, security threats, accidental and intentional contamination, and other vulnerabilities.

Water utility security[edit]

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Improving the security of our nation's drinking water and wastewater infrastructures has become a top priority since the events of 9/11.[1] Significant actions are underway to assess and reduce vulnerabilities to potential terrorist attacks; to plan for and practice response to emergencies and incidents; and to develop new security technologies to detect and monitor contaminants and prevent security breaches."[2]

One of the most important elements of water security is early and accurate contamination detection. The EPA has issued advisory material and guidelines for contamination warning systems to be implemented in water utilities and supplies. The security challenges that utilities frequently revolve around fast detection, accuracy, and the ability to take fast action when there is a water problem. If contamination is detected early enough, it can be prevented from reaching consumers, and emergency water supplies can be put into effect.[3]

In cases where contamination might still reach consumers, fast and efficient communication systems are necessary. All these factors also point to the need for organized and practiced emergency procedures and preparedness.


Since 2002, under the Bioterrorism Act, a water utility supplying more than 3,300 people must take at least the following measures to ensure security of the water supply:[4][5][6]

  • Conduct an assessment of the facility’s vulnerabilities to vandalism, insider sabotage, or terrorist attack, and submit the report to the EPA.
  • Show that the facility has an up-to-date emergency response plan, should an incident occur.

More recently, under the Drinking Water Security Act of 2009, the EPA is now required to establish risk-based performance standards for community water systems serving more than 3,300 people.[5]

Cincinnati Water Works, San Francisco, and New York City are among the major water utilities that have taken water security measures at their facilities, such as planning for contamination warning systems.[7]

Water utility security components[edit]

Security of a water supply involves a range of elements. Prevention and detection systems include some or all of the following: access to public health and customer complaint data, water quality monitoring equipment, sampling and analysis, cyber-security which includes situation management and IT systems hardware and software, and physical security. Crisis management and recovery, for when critical water events occur, includes flow control and security valves, rapid and effective communication systems, and emergency water supply equipment.

Specific technologies involved in water security are SCADA, GIS (geographic information system), online (real-time) water quality monitoring devices, contamination warning systems, intrusion detection systems (IDS), contamination detection devices, security valves, security cameras and fences, situation management/emergency management software, emergency supply tanks, manned (or human) security personnel, personal purification devices, and counter-terrorism intelligence.

Notable water security organizations[edit]

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Water Security Department

The Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center (WaterISAC),[8] is the US water sector's security and emergency response information source. This nonprofit service provides US, Canadian, and Australian drinking water and wastewater utilities with the information they need to heighten the protection of water collection and delivery infrastructure. WaterISAC is also a peer-to-peer, business networking platform. Eligible members of the water sector have access to a clearinghouse of government and private documents, guides, best practices, handbooks, and contaminant databases as well as shared data including analysis of successful and failed security incidents within the water sector. These include cyber incidents, physical incidents, and other security related incidents. Many but not all of these are reported to and tracked by WaterISAC. Together, these resources are can be used by utility managers to identify risks, prepare for emergencies, and secure the nation's critical water infrastructure and the environment.[9]

American Water Works Association[10]

International Water Association (IWA), a global network of 10,000 water professionals spanning the continuum between research and practice and covering all facets of the water cycle.[11]

World Environment Federation "The Water Quality People"[12]

International leaders[edit]


The Israeli Holistic Approach to Water Security draws from 70 years of experience in national security and water management. Nations such as the US, UK, Spain, and others are collaborating with Israeli experts in water security standards.[13][14]


  1. ^ Copeland, Claudia (December 15, 2010). "Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  2. ^ [1] Archived January 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Water Security Initiative: Interim Guidance on Planning for Contamination Warning System Deployment" (PDF). US EPA. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  4. ^ "Bioterrorism Act of 2002". Fda.gov. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  5. ^ a b [2] Archived July 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "IV -- Drinking Water Security and Safety". FDA. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  7. ^ staff (2009-02-23). "EPA Invests $2 Million in Philadelphia Drinking Water Security". Ens-newswire.com. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  8. ^ http://www.waterisac.org
  9. ^ "About Us | WaterISAC". Portal.waterisac.org. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  10. ^ http://www.AWWA.org
  11. ^ "IWA". Iwahq.org. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  12. ^ "Water Environment Federation: The Water Quality People". Wef.org. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  13. ^ http://forecasthighs.com/2008/06/12/water-wars/
  14. ^ "HugeDomains.com - TecWiki.com is for Sale". Tec Wiki. Retrieved 2014-08-16.