AWWA reports progress in securing US water supply

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) reports that US water utilities' immense focus on homeland security since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 has resulted in an unprecedented mobilisation of effort and resources to protect the nation's water supply.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) reports that US water utilities' immense focus on homeland security since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 has resulted in an unprecedented mobilisation of effort and resources to protect the nation's water supply.

The new report "Drinking Water Security in America After 9/11" identifies the extensive new security measures water utilities have undertaken. It also describes the new culture of security that water utilities now operate under and the challenges they still face in protecting water supplies from terrorism. The full report can be downloaded from the AWWA website http://www.awwa.org .

Working together with the Environ-mental Protection Agency (EPA), water utilities have ramped up security efforts at water supply systems throughout the nation. Background checks on new employees have become common, as have intensive employee training, security audits, assessments and emergency response and communications plans. A nation-wide information sharing system has been developed for water utilities. Utilities are identifying their most vulnerable traits and are working with local emergency first responders to coordinate planning.

The drinking water community, in partnership with EPA and others, began to prepare for terrorist threats before 11 September 2001. In 1998 President Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive 63, which identified water as part of America's critical infrastructure. Under that directive, EPA was assigned lead responsibility for the water sector and, in turn, designated the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) as the lead for this sector. Concurrently, the AWWA began to prepare technical materials and publications for water utilities relating to water system security. These efforts went into high gear immediately after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Title IV of the Bioterrorism Act, which was signed into law in June 2002, amended the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and required specific actions to improve water security, with specific deadlines and requirements for water utilities and EPA.

The Bioterrorism Act mandated significant new security requirements for all community water systems serving more than 3,300 people. Collectively these approximately 8,000 utilities serve more than 240 million people, or about 90% of the nation's population served by community water systems.

Since the 11 September terrorist attacks, water utilities have been assessing their systems. AWWA estimated US$1.6 billion is needed for the first steps towards greater physical protection, to include better fences, locks, lights, and alarms at critical utility assets. The cost of other necessary utility security upgrades is highly dependent on local factors such as the level of water security upgrades needed. Barring additional local, state, or federal funding, these costs will be passed on to the customer.

The AWWA is a non-profit scientific and educational organisation dedicated to safe drinking water in North America with a worldwide membership of more than 56,000.

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