Department of Homeland Security Releases Water Sector Security Plan

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently made available a series of sector specific security plans (SSPs)...

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently made available a series of sector-specific security plans (SSPs), including its just-completed Water Sector-Specific Plan, the strategic roadmap for future federal water security efforts.

The Water Sector plan was developed through a partnership between DHS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the sector-specific agency for the water sector), the Water Sector Coordinating Council, and the Government Water Sector Coordinating Council. Water and wastewater organizations involved in the council include the AWWA, WEF, NACWA, NAWC, AMWA and the NRWA.

The voluntary plan outlines goals and objectives for water and wastewater utilities, government entities and other partners regarding security and emergency-response issues.

The plan outlines four goals for the sector to drive development of protective programs and measures of success: Sustain protection of public health and the environment; recognize and reduce risks; maintain a resilient infrastructure; and increase communication, outreach and public confidence.

There are approximately 160,000 public drinking water utilities and more than 16,000 wastewater utilities in the United States. About 84 percent of the U.S. population receives its potable water from these drinking water utilities and more than 75 percent has its sanitary sewage treated by these wastewater utilities.

According to the report, the water sector (including drinking water and wastewater) is vulnerable to a variety of attacks, including contamination with deadly agents and physical and cyber attacks. If these attacks were to occur, the result could be large numbers of illnesses or casualties or denial of service that would also affect public health and economic vitality.

Critical services such as firefighting and health care (hospitals), and other dependent and interdependent sectors such as energy, transportation, and food and agriculture, would suffer negative impacts from a denial of Water Sector service. In collaboration with the entire sector, a broad-based strategy to address security needs is being developed and implemented. This work includes preparing vulnerability assessment and emergency response tools, providing technical and financial assistance, and exchanging information.

The SSP discusses ongoing efforts by government agencies and Water Sector security partners to help the DHS identify, prioritize, and coordinate key sector resources and assets that could, if compromised, result in economic or public health impacts. The discussion includes a determination of the sector’s relevant information parameters; an outline of data sources that help it manage risk and protect infrastructure assets; an evaluation of methods for verifying infrastructure information; and a review of methods for updating that information.

Implementation of the Water SSP goals and objectives is already underway. A council of senior water and wastewater utility managers from utilities of all sizes, both rural and urban, along with various water associations, meets regularly to advise DHS and EPA on issues of importance to the sector.

The Water SSP is one of 17 sector-specific plans released by DHS to support the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. In addition to water, sectors include agriculture and food, banking, commercial nuclear reactors, energy, government facilities and telecommunications. A number of the plans, including the Water SSP, were released to the public, while seven, including nuclear reactors, were released for “official use only.” Together, the 17 sector-specific plans outline a risk-management framework that defines critical infrastructure-protection roles.

The publicly released, sector-specific plans, including the Water SSP, are available at: http://www.dhs.gov/xprevprot/programs/gc_1179866197607.shtm.

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