Water Sector Interdependencies
Safe drinking water and wastewater treatment and service is essential to the public health and economic vitality of any society. In the United States, drinking water and wastewater utilities, collectively known as the Water Sector, are charged with implementing programs to provide clean and safe water to their communities everyday regardless of external forces that may impede their efforts, including natural disasters or terrorist events. To provide their essential services, water sector utilities do not operate independently. In fact, the water sector is interdependent with every critical infrastructure. Therefore, the denial of drinking water and wastewater utilities’ services—whether the result of a contamination incident, physical attack, or cyber attack—would have cascading effects. Advanced preparation of how to continually provide drinking water and wastewater services during and following an incident will reduce human and economic hardships. Towards that end, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided a series of 18 general awareness trainings on water sector interdependencies throughout 2010-11. See, Summary Report.
WEF continues to be a leader in assisting water and wastewater (water sector) utilities prevent, respond and recover from natural disasters and man-made (terrorist) threats. Primarily this work is conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through grants and cooperative agreements.
WEF has been working since 2002 to train water sector managers and operators of all size utilities to assess and manage risk. Previous training programs have focused on large, medium, and small publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs) and Community Water Systems (CWS), as well as train-the-trainer sessions for state and local training and assistance providers.
In 2007, WEF completed a five-year program, funded by a cooperative agreement with EPA, which trained more than 1,800 individuals from 1,200 POTWs utilities on how to complete a vulnerability assessment of their facility and update their emergency response plan based on that assessment. No federal mandate currently exists for water sector utilities to conduct a vulnerability assessment or update their emergency response plan and WEF is not currently offering vulnerability assessment and emergency response training.
Currently, WEF is coordinating with other sectors including energy, transportation, and information technology to examine the interdependencies of water and wastewater (water sector) utilities on other critical infrastructure sectors. All of the WEF training and resource development related to water sector security is offered at no cost to the water sector as a public service and in cooperation with EPA, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal, state, and local agencies.
WEF Partners with Government on Security Issues
In addition, WEF continues to partner with federal, state, and local government, as well as other partners on all security and emergency response issues. The water sector is one of eighteen critical infrastructure and key resources identified by the federal government through the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) which provides a general overview of the roles and responsibilities for government entities, and other partners regarding security and emergency response issues for the nation. In addition, the Water Sector Specific Plan (SSP) outlines goals and objectives for water and wastewater (water sector) utilities.
Water Infrastructure Security Enhancements Project
The security of our nation’s water infrastructure is of critical importance, particularly in the post-September 11 environment. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have developed a comprehensive program to address physical infrastructure security needs for water supply, wastewater and stormwater, and online contaminant monitoring systems. As a result of this partnership, the following initiatives were accomplished: