Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector

Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the
Water Infrastructure Sector
Updated November 17, 2008
Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resource and Environmental Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division

Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the
Water Infrastructure Sector
Damage to or destruction of the nation’s water supply and water quality
infrastructure by terrorist attack or natural disaster could disrupt the delivery of vital
human services in this country, threatening public health and the environment, or
possibly causing loss of life. Interest in such problems has increased greatly since the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.
Across the country, water infrastructure systems extend over vast areas, and
ownership and operation responsibility are both public and private, but are
overwhelmingly non-federal. Since the attacks, federal dam operators and local
water and wastewater utilities have been under heightened security conditions and
are evaluating security plans and measures. There are no federal standards or agreed-
upon industry practices within the water infrastructure sector to govern readiness,
response to security incidents, and recovery. Efforts to develop protocols and tools
are ongoing since the 2001 terrorist attacks. This report presents an overview of this
large and diverse sector, describes security-related actions by the government and
private sector since September 11, and discusses additional policy issues and
responses, including congressional interest.
Policymakers have been considering a number of initiatives, including enhanced
physical security, better communication and coordination, and research. A key issue
is how additional protections and resources directed at public and private sector
priorities will be funded. In response, Congress has provided $794 million in
appropriations for security at water infrastructure facilities (to assess and protect
federal facilities and support security assessment and risk reduction activities by non-
federal facilities) and passed a bill requiring drinking water utilities to conduct
security vulnerability assessments (P.L. 107-188). When Congress created the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002 (P.L. 107-297), it gave DHS
responsibilities to coordinate information to secure the nation’s critical infrastructure,
including the water sector. Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-7, the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the lead federal agency for protecting
drinking water and wastewater utility systems.
Recent congressional interest has focused on two legislative issues: (1) security
of wastewater utilities, and (2) whether to include water utilities in chemical security
regulations implemented by DHS. In the 109th Congress, a Senate committee
approved legislation to encourage wastewater treatment works to conduct
vulnerability assessments and develop site security plans (S. 2781). Similar
legislation was introduced in the 110th Congress (S. 1968), but there was no further
action on this legislation. Also in the 110th Congress, bills to extend DHS’s
Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards were considered but not enacted. One
bill (H.R. 5533) would preserve an existing exemption for water utilities from
chemical facility standards, while another (H.R. 5577) would include them in the
scope of DHS security rules. Continuing attention to these issues is possible, along
with interest in how the federal government coordinates its own activities and
communicates policies and information to the water infrastructure sector.

In troduction ..................................................1
Background ..................................................2
Responses to Security Concerns..................................3
EPA ....................................................7
Reclamation and the Corps..................................9
Department of Homeland Security............................9
Coordination and Information Sharing........................11
Policy Issues and Congressional Responses........................12
Congressional Activity.....................................14
List of Figures
Figure 1. Water Infrastructure Security Appropriations...................15

Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the
Water Infrastructure Sector
The September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
have drawn attention to the security of many institutions, facilities, and systems in
the United States, including the nation’s water supply and water quality
infrastructure. These systems have long been recognized as being potentially
vulnerable to terrorist attacks of various types, including physical disruption,
bioterrorism/chemical contamination, and cyber attack. Damage or destruction by
terrorist attack could disrupt the delivery of vital human services in this country,
threatening public health and the environment, or possibly causing loss of life.
Further, since most water infrastructure is government-owned, it may serve as a
symbolic and political target for some. This report presents an overview of this large
and diverse sector, describes security-related actions by the government and private
sector since September 11, and discusses additional policy issues and responses,
including congressional interest.
The potential for terrorism is not new. In 1941, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote, “It has long been recognized that among public
utilities, water supply facilities offer a particularly vulnerable point of attack to the
foreign agent, due to the strategic position they occupy in keeping the wheels of
industry turning and in preserving the health and morale of the American populace.”1
Water infrastructure systems also are highly linked with other infrastructure systems,
especially electric power and transportation, as well as the chemical industry which
supplies treatment chemicals, making security of all of them an issue of concern.
These types of vulnerable interconnections were evident, for example, during the
August 2003 electricity blackout in the Northeast United States: wastewater
treatment plants in Cleveland, Detroit, New York, and other locations that lacked
backup generation systems lost power and discharged millions of gallons of untreated
sewage during the emergency, and power failures at drinking water plants led to boil-
water advisories in many communities. Likewise, natural disasters such as the 2005
Gulf Coast hurricanes and 2007 Mississippi River floods caused extensive and costly
damage to multiple infrastructure systems — transportation, water, electric power,
and telecommunications.

1 J.E. Hoover, “Water Supply Facilities and National Defense,” Journal of the American
Water Works Association, vol. 33, no. 11 (1941), 1861.

Broadly speaking, water infrastructure systems include surface and ground water
sources of untreated water for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and household
needs; dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, and pipes that contain and transport raw water;
treatment facilities that remove contaminants from raw water; finished water
reservoirs; systems that distribute water to users; and wastewater collection and
treatment facilities. Across the country, these systems comprise approximately
77,000 dams and reservoirs; thousands of miles of pipes, aqueducts, water
distribution, and sewer lines; 168,000 public drinking water facilities (many serving
as few as 25 customers); and about 16,000 publicly owned wastewater treatment
facilities. All of these systems and facilities must be operable 24 hours a day, seven
days a week. Ownership and management are both public and private; the federal
government has ownership responsibility for hundreds of dams and diversion
structures, but the vast majority of the nation’s water infrastructure is either privately
owned or owned by non-federal units of government.
The federal government has built hundreds of water projects, primarily dams
and reservoirs for irrigation development and flood control, with municipal and
industrial water use as an incidental, self-financed, project purpose. Many of these
facilities are critically entwined with the nation’s overall water supply, transportation,
and electricity infrastructure. The largest federal facilities were built and are
managed by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) of the Department of the
Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) of the Department of
Reclamation reservoirs, particularly those along the Colorado River, supply
water to millions of people in southern California, Arizona, and Nevada via
Reclamation and non-Reclamation aqueducts. Reclamation’s inventory of assets
includes 471 dams and dikes that create 348 reservoirs with a total storage capacity
of 245 million acre-feet of water. Reclamation projects also supply water to 9
million acres of farmland and other municipal and industrial water users in the 17
western states. The Corps operates 276 navigation locks, 11,000 miles of
commercial navigation channel, and approximately 1,200 projects of varying types,
including 609 dams. It supplies water to thousands of cities, towns, and industries
from the 9.5 million acre-feet of water stored in its 116 lakes and reservoirs
throughout the country, including service to approximately one million residents of
the District of Columbia and portions of northern Virginia.
The largest Corps and Reclamation facilities also produce enormous amounts
of power. For example, Hoover and Glen Canyon dams on the Colorado River
represent 23% of the installed electrical capacity of the Bureau of Reclamation’s 58
power plants in the West and 7% of the total installed capacity in the Western United
States. Similarly, Corps facilities and Reclamation’s Grand Coulee Dam on the
Columbia River provide 43% of the total installed hydroelectric capacity in the West
(25% nationwide). Still, despite its critical involvement in such projects, especially
in the West, the federal government is responsible for only about 5% of the dams
whose failure could result in loss of life or significant property damage. The
remaining dams belong to state or local governments, utilities, and corporate or
private owners.

A fairly small number of large drinking water and wastewater utilities located
primarily in urban areas (about 15% of the systems) provide water services to more
than 75% of the U.S. population. Arguably, these systems represent the greatest
targets of opportunity for terrorist attacks, while the large number of small systems
that each serve fewer than 10,000 persons are less likely to be perceived as key
targets by terrorists who might seek to disrupt water infrastructure systems.
However, the more numerous smaller systems also tend to be less protected and,
thus, are potentially more vulnerable to attack, whether by vandals or terrorists. A
successful attack on even a small system could cause widespread panic, economic
impacts, and a loss of public confidence in water supply systems.
Attacks resulting in physical destruction to any of these systems could include
disruption of operating or distribution system components, power or
telecommunications systems, electronic control systems, and actual damage to
reservoirs and pumping stations. A loss of flow and pressure would cause problems
for customers and would hinder firefighting efforts. Further, destruction of a large
dam could result in catastrophic flooding and loss of life. Bioterrorism or chemical
attacks could deliver widespread contamination with small amounts of
microbiological agents or toxic chemicals, and could endanger the public health of
thousands. While some experts believe that risks to water systems actually are small,
because it would be difficult to introduce sufficient quantities of agents to cause
widespread harm, concern and heightened awareness of potential problems are
apparent. Factors that are relevant to a biological agent’s potential as a weapon
include its stability in a drinking water system, virulence, culturability in the quantity
required, and resistance to detection and treatment. Cyber attacks on computer
operations can affect an entire infrastructure network, and hacking in water utility
systems could result in theft or corruption of information, or denial and disruption of
Responses to Security Concerns
Water infrastructure system designers, managers, and operators have long made
preparing for extreme events a standard practice. Historically, their focus has been
on natural events — major storms, blizzards, and earthquakes — some of which
could be predicted hours or longer before they occurred. When considering the risk
of manmade threats, operators generally focused on purposeful acts such as
vandalism or theft by disgruntled employees or customers, rather than broader
malevolent threats by terrorists, domestic or foreign. The events of September 11,

2001, changed this focus.

Federal dam operators went on “high-alert” immediately following the
September 11 terrorist attacks. Reclamation closed its visitor facilities at Grand
Coulee, Hoover, and Glen Canyon dams. Because of potential loss of life and
property downstream if breached, security threats are under constant review, and
coordination efforts with both the National Guard and local law enforcement officials
are ongoing. The Corps also operates under continued high defense alert and
temporarily closed all its facilities to visitors after September 11, although locks and
dams remained operational; most closed facilities later re-opened, but security
continues to be reassessed. Following a heightened alert issued by the federal
government in February 2003, Reclamation implemented additional security

measures which remain in effect at dams, powerplants, and other facilities, including
limited access to facilities and roads, closure of some visitor centers, and random
vehicle inspections.
Although officials believe that risks to water and wastewater utilities are small,
operators have been under heightened security conditions since September 11. Local
utilities have primary responsibility to assess their vulnerabilities and prioritize them
for necessary security improvements. Most (especially in urban areas) have
emergency preparedness plans that address issues such as redundancy of operations,
public notification, and coordination with law enforcement and emergency response
officials. However, many plans were developed to respond to natural disasters,
domestic threats such as vandalism, and, in some cases, cyber attacks. Drinking
water and wastewater utilities coordinated efforts to prepare for possible Y2K
impacts on their computer systems on January 1, 2000, but these efforts focused more
on cyber security than physical terrorism concerns. Thus, it was unclear whether
previously existing plans incorporate sufficient procedures to address other types of
terrorist threats. Utility officials are reluctant to disclose details of their systems or
these confidential plans, since doing so might alert terrorists to vulnerabilities.
Water supply was one of eight critical infrastructure systems identified in
President Clinton’s 1998 Presidential Decision Directive 63 (PDD-63)2 as part of a
coordinated national effort to achieve the capability to protect the nation’s critical
infrastructure from intentional acts that would diminish them. These efforts focused
primarily on the 340 large community water supply systems which each serve more
than 100,000 persons. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was identified
as the lead federal agency for liaison with the water supply sector. In response, in
2000, EPA established a partnership with the American Metropolitan Water
Association (AMWA) and American Water Works Association (AWWA) to jointly
undertake measures to safeguard water supplies from terrorist acts. AWWA’s
Research Foundation contracted with the Department of Energy’s Sandia National
Laboratory to develop a vulnerability assessment tool for water systems (as an
extension of methodology for assessing federal dams). EPA supported a project with
the Sandia Lab to pilot test the physical vulnerability assessment tool and develop a
cyber vulnerability assessment tool. An Information Sharing and Analysis Center
(ISAC) supported by an EPA grant became operational under AMWA’s leadership
in December 2002. It will allow for dissemination of alerts to drinking water and
wastewater utilities about potential threats or vulnerabilities to the integrity of their
operations that have been detected and viable resolutions to problems.3
Research on water sector infrastructure protection has been underway for some
time. The Department of the Army conducts research in the area of detection and
treatment to remove various chemical agents. The Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) has led an effort to produce databases of water distribution systems
and to develop assessment tools for evaluating threats posed by the introduction of
a biological or chemical agent into a water system. The Centers for Disease Control

2 “The Clinton Administration’s Policy on Critical Infrastructure Protection: Presidential
Decision Directive 63,” May 22, 1998; see [http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/paper598.htm].
3 For additional information, see [http://www.waterisac.org/].

and Prevention is developing guidance on potential biological agents and the effects
of standard water treatment practices on their persistence. However, in the January

2001 report of the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection,

ongoing water sector research was then characterized as a small effort that leaves a
number of gaps and shortfalls relative to U.S. water supplies.4 This report stated that
gaps exist in four major areas, concerns that remain relevant and are guiding
policymakers now.
!Threat/vulnerability risk assessments,
!Identification and characterization of biological and chemical agents,
!A need to establish a center of excellence to support communities in
conducting vulnerability and risk assessment, and
!Application of information assurance techniques to computerized
systems used by water utilities, as well as the oil, gas, and electric
sectors, for operational data and control operations.
Less attention has been focused on protecting wastewater treatment facilities
than drinking water systems, perhaps because destruction of them likely represents
more of an environmental threat (i.e., by release of untreated sewage) than a direct
threat to life or public welfare. Vulnerabilities do exist, however. Large
underground collector sewers could be accessed by terrorist groups for purposes of
placing destructive devices beneath buildings or city streets. Pipelines can be made
into weapons via the introduction of a highly flammable substance such as gasoline
through a manhole or inlet. Explosions in the sewers can cause collapse of roads,
sidewalks, and adjacent structures and injure and kill people nearby. Damage to a
wastewater facility prevents water from being treated and can impact downriver
water intakes. Destruction of containers that hold large amounts of chemicals at
treatment plants could result in release of toxic chemical agents, such as chlorine gas,
which can be deadly to humans if inhaled and, at lower doses, can burn eyes and skin
and inflame the lungs.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, many water and wastewater utilities have
switched from using chlorine gas as disinfection to alternatives which are believed
to be safer, such as sodium hypochlorite or ultraviolet light. However, some
consumer groups remain concerned that many wastewater utilities, including
facilities that serve heavily populated areas, continue to use chlorine gas. To prepare
for potential accidental releases of hazardous chemicals from their facilities, more
than 2,800 wastewater and drinking water utilities, water supply systems, and
irrigation systems already are subject to risk management planning requirements
under the Clean Air Act. Still, some observers advocate requiring federal standards
to ensure that facilities using dangerous chemicals, such as wastewater treatment
plants, use the best possible industry practices (practices that are referred to as
Inherently Safer Technologies, or ISTs) to reduce hazards.5 In June 2007, the U.S.

4 Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, Report of the President of the United States on
the Status of Federal Critical Infrastructure Protection Activities, January 2001, 209 p. See
[ h t t p : / / www.f a s.or g/ i r p/ of f docs/ pdd/ CIP_2001_CongRept .pdf ] .
5 See, for example, Environmental Defense, Eliminating Hometown Hazards, Cutting

Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board issued a safety bulletin
recommending that the Department of Transportation increase regulation of
wastewater and drinking water treatment plants and other types of facilities that
receive chlorine gas by railcar to require that they install remotely operated
emergency isolation devices to unload chlorine railcars, for rapid shutdown in the
event of leakage or other failure.6
In March 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on a
survey of security measures at 200 of the nation’s largest wastewater utilities.7 GAO
found that many have made security improvements since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Most utilities said they have completed, or intend to complete, a plan to conduct
some type of security assessment. More than half of responding facilities indicated
they did not use potentially dangerous gaseous chlorine as a wastewater disinfectant.
However, the report noted that these utilities have made little effort to address
collection system vulnerabilities, due to the technical complexity and expense of
securing collection systems that cover large areas and have many access points.
Some told GAO investigators that taking other measures, such as converting from
gaseous chlorine, took priority over collection system protections. In a 2007 follow-
on study, GAO reported that actual and projected capital costs to convert from
chlorine gas to alternative disinfection methods range from about $650,000 to just
over $13 million. Factors affecting conversion costs included the type of alternative
method; the size of the facility; and labor, building, and supply costs, which varied
consi d erabl y. 8
There are no federal standards or agreed-upon practices within the water
infrastructure sector to govern readiness, response to security incidents, and recovery.
EPA is not authorized to require water infrastructure systems to implement specific
security improvements or meet particular security standards. Efforts to develop
voluntary protocols and tools are ongoing since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Wastewater and drinking water utility organizations are implementing computer
software and training materials to evaluate vulnerabilities at large, medium, and
small utility systems, and EPA has provided some grant assistance to drinking water
utilities for vulnerability assessments. Out of funds appropriated in 2002 (P.L. 107-
117), EPA awarded grants to nearly 900 large and medium drinking water utilities
to conduct vulnerability assessments. EPA also has targeted grants to “train the
trainers,” delivering technical assistance to organizations such as the Rural

5 (...continued)
Chemical Risks at Wastewater Treatment Facilities, December 2003, 14 p.; and Center for
American Progress, Toxic Trains and the Terrorist Threat, How Water Utilities Can Get
Chlorine Gas Off the Rails and Out of American Communities, April 2007, 23 p.
6 For information, see [http://www.chemsafety.gov/index.cfm?folder=recommendations
7 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Securing Wastewater Facilities, Utilities Have
Made Important Upgrades but Further Improvements to Key System Components May Be
Limited by Costs and Other Constraints, GAO-06-390, March 2006, 64 p.
8 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Securing Wastewater Facilities, Costs of
Vulnerability Assessments, Risk Management Plans, and Alternative Disinfection Methods
Vary Widely, GAO-07-480, March 2007, 26 p.

Community Assistance Program and the Water Environment Federation that, in turn,
can assist and train personnel at thousands of medium and small utilities throughout
the country. Rural and small systems also have received support from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
With financial support from EPA, drinking water and wastewater utility and
engineering groups developed three security guidance documents, issued in
December 2004, that cover the physical design of online contaminant monitoring
systems, and physical security enhancements of drinking water, wastewater, and
stormwater infrastructure systems. The documents provide voluntary guidelines for
assisting utilities that have completed vulnerability assessments to mitigate
vulnerabilities of their systems through the design, construction, operation, and
maintenance of both new and existing systems. Based on the three guidance
documents, these groups also have drafted training materials and a set of voluntary
standardized best engineering practices that recommend measures to protect water
and wastewater infrastructure against a range of threats, including terrorist attacks
and other sources of potential harm, such as accidents, chemical contamination, and
natural disasters.9
EPA. EPA has taken a number of organizational and planning steps to
strengthen water security. The agency created a National Homeland Security
Research Center within the Office of Research and Development to develop the
scientific foundations and tools that can be used to respond to attacks on water
systems. The Center conducts applied research on ways to protect and prevent,
mitigate, respond to, and recover from security events. In September 2003, EPA
created a Water Security Division in the Office of Water, taking over activities
initiated by a Water Protection Task Force after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
This office provides guidance and tools to utilities as they assess and reduce
vulnerabilities of their systems. It trains water utility personnel on security issues,
supports the WaterISAC, and implements the agency’s comprehensive research plan.
EPA has issued both a Water Security Research and Technical Support Action
Plan, identifying critical research needs and providing an implementation plan for
addressing those needs, and a Strategic Plan for Homeland Security. The Strategic
Plan, which is not limited to water security concerns, identifies several mission-
critical areas on which EPA intends to focus its homeland security planning: critical
infrastructure protection; preparedness, response, and recovery; communication and
information; protection of EPA personnel and infrastructure; and self-evaluation.
There has been evaluation of some of these EPA efforts. A preliminary review
of the Research and Action Plan by a panel of the National Research Council
identified some gaps, suggested alternative priorities, and noted that the Plan was
silent on the financial resources required to complete the research and to implement
needed countermeasures to improve water security. Also in 2003, EPA’s Inspector
General issued an evaluation report on the initial Strategic Plan for Homeland
Security and concluded that the agency had not outlined how resources, activities,
and outputs will achieve the water security program’s goals. Moreover, the Inspector

9 See [http://www.asce.org/static/1/wise.cfm].

General said that EPA lacks fundamental components, such as performance
measures, for monitoring program performance against goals.10 EPA responded that
long-term objectives for critical water infrastructure protection activities could be
identified in a future revised strategic plan. A second Strategic Plan for Homeland
Security, issued in October 2004, updated the initial strategy principally by reflecting
projected funding and resources for the next two years on EPA’s strategic objectives
and recognizing the evolving role of the Department of Homeland Security.11
Reviewing these efforts, the National Research Council concluded in 2007that EPA
has developed useful contaminant information and exposure assessment tools in
several key areas, but that other areas, such as physical and cyber security,
contingency planning, and wastewater security, have shown weaker or somewhat
disjointed progress. An overarching issue is making water security information
accessible to those who might need it.12
GAO has issued two reports discussing how future federal funding can best be
spent to improve security at drinking water and wastewater utilities.13 Both reports
are based on the views of subject matter experts identified by GAO. In the drinking
water report, specific activities judged by the experts to be most deserving of federal
support included physical and technological upgrades, education and training for staff
and responders, and strengthening key relationships between water utilities and
others such as law enforcement and public health agencies. In the wastewater report,
the experts cited the replacement of gaseous chemicals used in the disinfection
process with less hazardous alternatives as a key activity deserving of federal funds,
along with improving local, state, and regional collaboration, and support facilities’
vulnerability assessments. Asked how federal funds should be allocated, both groups
of experts favored giving priority to utilities that serve critical assets (such as public
health institutions, government, and military bases) and to utilities serving areas with
large populations.
A key focus of EPA’s activities since 2005 has been the Water Sector Initiative.
Initially known as WaterSentinel, it is a pilot project that could serve as a model for
water utilities throughout the country. Its purpose is to test and demonstrate
contamination warning systems at drinking water utilities and municipalities. So far,
EPA has awarded grants to install and evaluate early warning systems to Cincinnati,
New York, and San Francisco, and the agency expects to award similar grants to two
other cities in the near future.

10 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General, EPA Needs a Better
Strategy to Measure Changes in the Security of the Nation’s Water Infrastructure, Report
No. 2003-M-00016, September 11, 2003.
11 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Homeland Security Strategy,” October 2004, 46
12 National Academies Press, Improving the Nation’s Water Security, Opportunities for
Research, Water Science and Technology Board, 2007. Hereafter, Improving the Nation’s
Water Security.
13 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Drinking Water, Experts’ Views on How Future
Federal Funding Can Best Be Spent to Improve Security, GAO-04-29, October 2003, 69 p.;
and Wastewater Facilities, Experts’ Views on How Federal Funds Should Be Spent to
Improve Security, GAO-05-165, January 2005, 70 p.

More broadly, EPA has expanded its security activities in two ways. First, its
focus has enlarged from the post-9/11 emphasis on terrorism to an “all hazards”
approach, emphasizing to water utilities that issues of risk identification and risk
reduction also include natural disasters (which were the focus of much of the
industry’s attention before 2001) and protection of hazardous chemicals. Second,
EPA supports the establishment of intrastate mutual aid and assistance agreements,
known as Water/Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNS), to facilitate
flow of personnel and resources during response to emergencies. They are intended
to provide mechanisms for establishing emergency contacts and facilitating short-
term emergency assistance to restore critical operations. Mutual aid agreements
existed in California and Florida before the 2005 Gulf hurricanes, and more formal
efforts to establish similar programs in all 50 states followed on those disasters. So
far, WARNS have been established in about 20 states, according to EPA.
Reclamation and the Corps. Officials have been reassessing federal
infrastructure status and vulnerabilities for several years.14 The Bureau of
Reclamation’s site security program is aimed at ensuring protection of Reclamation’s

252 high- and significant-hazard dams and facilities and 58 hydroelectric plants.

After September 11, Reclamation committed to conducting vulnerability and risk
assessments at 280 high-priority facilities. Risk assessments at these facilities were
completed between FY2002 and FY2006. These assessments resulted in
recommendations now being implemented to enhance security procedures and
physical facilities, such as additional security staffing, limited vehicle and visitor
access, and coordination with local law enforcement agencies. The Corps
implements a facility protection program to detect, protect, and respond to threats to
Corps facilities and a dam security program to coordinate security systems for Corps
infrastructure. It also implements a national emergency preparedness program which
assists civilian governments in responding to all regional/national emergencies,
including acts of terrorism. Both agencies participate in the Interagency Committee
on Dam Safety (ICODS), which is part of the National Dam Safety Program that is
led by FEMA.
A February 2003 White House report15 presented a national strategy for
protecting the nation’s critical infrastructures and identified four water sector
initiatives: identify high-priority vulnerabilities and improve site security; improve
monitoring and analytic capabilities; improve information exchange and coordinate
contingency planning; and work with other sectors to manage unique risks resulting
from interdependencies. The strategy is intended to focus national protection
priorities, inform resource allocation processes, and be the basis for cooperative
public and private protection actions.
Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland
Security (DHS, established in P.L. 107-297) has a mandate to coordinate securing
the nation’s critical infrastructure, including water infrastructure, through

14 For additional information, see CRS Report RL34466, The Bureau of Reclamation’s
Aging Infrastructure, by Nic Lane.
15 The White House, Office of Homeland Security, The National Strategy for the Physical
Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets, February 2003, 90 p.

partnerships with the public and private sectors. It is responsible for detailed
implementation of core elements of the national strategy for protection of critical
infrastructures. One of its tasks is to assess infrastructure vulnerabilities, an activity
that wastewater and drinking water utilities have been doing since the September 11
attacks, under their own initiatives and congressional mandates (P.L. 107-288; see
page 15). The legislative reorganization did not transfer Corps or Reclamation
responsibilities for security protection of dams and other facilities or EPA’s
responsibilities to assist drinking water and wastewater utilities.
In December 2003, President Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential
Directive/HSPD-7 which established a national policy for the federal government to
identify, prioritize, and protect critical infrastructure as a part of homeland security.16
The directive called for DHS to integrate all security efforts among federal agencies
and to complete a comprehensive national plan for critical infrastructure protection.
In 2006, DHS issued a National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) that is intended
to set national priorities, goals, and requirements for effective distribution of funding
and resources to help ensure that government, the economy, and public services
continue in the event of a terrorist attack or other disaster. It proposes a framework
of partnerships between private industry sectors and the government that would work
together to secure the nation’s vital resources. For example, EPA would work with
water treatment and wastewater systems, while dams would cooperate with DHS.
The Department established the Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory
Council (CIPAC) to coordinate federal infrastructure protection programs with
similar activities of the private sector, and state, local, and tribal governments. In

2004, CIPAC established a Government Coordinating Council (GCC) and non-

government coordinating council for each sector. The CIPAC Water Sector
Committee includes representatives from both the Water GCC(federal members) and
the Water Sector Coordinating Council (SCC). The Water SCC consists of 24
members from state and local agencies, water utilities, and water affinity
In response to the NIPP, DHS and the GCCs, in conjunction with the Sector
Coordinating Councils, prepared 17 sector-specific plans which were completed in
May 2007. The plans identify sector profiles and assets, assess risks, prioritize
infrastructure, identify sector protection plans and measures of progress. The water
sector plan for wastewater and drinking water focuses on four goals: (1) sustaining
protection of public health and the environment; (2) recognize and reduce risks; (3)
maintain a resilient infrastructure; and (4) increase communication, outreach, and
public confidence.17 The sector plan for dams, including federal dams, is one of 10

16 The White House, December 17, 2003 Homeland Security Presidential Directive/
HSPD-7, Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection. HSPD-7
superseded PDD-63, which started the process of federal protection of critical infrastructure
even before the 2001 terrorist attacks.
17 U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Water, Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Sector-Specific Plan as input to the
National Infrastructure Protection Plan, May 2007, 122 p.

that DHS determined presents security sensitivity issues if widely distributed; thus,
those 10 plans were not released to the public. In an early review of the sector plans,
GAO found that the drinking water and wastewater sector plan was more developed
than that of many other sectors, largely because the sector has a 30-year history of
protection and cooperation, but for that reason, the plan did not provide added value
for the sector.18
In the NIPP, DHS described a plan to develop a risk analysis method that would
include a uniform means of measuring risk and assessing consequences across
infrastructure sectors. Some drinking water and wastewater treatment industry
officials commented that this plan, known as the Risk Analysis and Management for
Critical Asset Protection (RAMCAP), raised concern that it could force some
facilities to conduct new, or revise existing, vulnerability assessments. Drinking
water industry officials are said to be concerned that a new method may not
recognize vulnerability assessments that many drinking water utilities have already
completed under requirements of the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness Act (see page
15). This is a particular concern for small and rural utilities, many of which have
used simpler security models to complete their vulnerability assessment plans and
would prefer to build on that model to conduct RAMCAP and similar activities.
Coordination and Information Sharing. The Homeland Security
Department’s involvement in water security concerns has been growing, although
under HSPD-7, EPA continues as the lead federal agency to ensure protection of
drinking water and wastewater treatment systems from possible terrorist acts and
other sabotage. Since early 2004, DHS has been preparing guidance documents on
how each infrastructure sector, including water systems, can protect itself from
security threats. For some time, the two agencies have been working to clarify their
roles in providing security to water utilities.
One of the functions of the Water Sector Coordinating Council is to be a point
of contact for DHS to vet potential water security policies, allowing one-stop
shopping for federal officials. In 2003, DHS created an information-sharing network,
called the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN). Both it and the existing
WaterISAC share the goal of providing security information to water utilities, but
they differ in some respects. The WaterISAC is a private, subscription service
(although it receives some federal funding) that provides information to about 530
water utilities and others on security matters. It is the primary communication tool
in the water sector. The HSIN, a software program, is a free, federally funded
platform for information sharing. It is not limited to the water sector, and it provides
no information by itself; it acts as a bulletin board where DHS, EPA, and utilities can
post security-related information. Distinct from the HSIN and the WaterISAC is the
Water Security Channel (WaterSC), launched in 2004 as a free service of the
WaterISAC, which disseminates EPA and DHS general security bulletins at the

17 (...continued)
See [http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/Water_SSP_5_21_07.pdf].
18 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Critical Infrastructure Protection: Sector Plans
and Sector Councils Continue to Evolve, GAO-07-706R, July 10, 2007, p. 4.

request of those agencies to more than 8,400 utilities, state agencies, engineering
firms, and researchers.
Policy Issues and Congressional Responses
Congress and other policymakers have considered a number of initiatives in this
area, including enhanced physical security, communication and coordination, and
research. Regarding physical security, a key question is whether protective measures
should be focused on the largest water systems and facilities, where risks to the
public are greatest, or on all, since small facilities may be more vulnerable. A related
question is responsibility for additional steps, because the federal government has
direct control over only a limited portion of the water infrastructure sector. The
distributed and diverse nature of ownership (federal, non-federal government, and
private) complicates assessing and managing risks, as does the reality of limited
resources. The adequacy of physical and operational security safeguards is an issue
for all in this sector. One possible option for federal facilities (dams and reservoirs
maintained by Reclamation and the Corps) is to restrict visitor access, including at
adjacent recreational facilities, although such actions could raise objections from the
public. Some operators of non-federal facilities and utilities are likewise concerned.
As a precaution after the September 11 attacks, New York City, which provides
water to 9 million consumers, closed its reservoirs indefinitely to all fishing, hiking,
and boating and blocked access to some roads.
Policymakers have examined measures that could improve coordination and
exchange of information on vulnerabilities, risks, threats, and responses. This is a
key objective of the WaterISAC and also of the Department of Homeland Security,
which includes, for example, functions of the National Infrastructure Protection
Center (NIPC) of the FBI that brings together the private sector and government
agencies at all levels to protect critical infrastructure, especially on cyber issues. One
issue of interest is how the Department is coordinating its activities with ongoing
security efforts by other federal agencies and non-federal entities that operate water
infrastructure systems, including its implementation of the comprehensive national
plan required by Presidential Directive/HSPD-7.
For some time, the two agencies have been working to clarify their roles in
providing security to water utilities and in other areas and have negotiated
agreements concerning joint research projects and coordination for specific field
operations. Nevertheless, in the conference report accompanying the FY2005
Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress directed EPA to enter into a
memorandum of understanding (MOU) with DHS to define the relationship of the
two entities with regard to the protection and security of the nation. The
memorandum was expected to specifically identify areas of responsibilities and the
potential costs (including which entity pays, in whole or part) for meeting such
responsibilities.19 In response, EPA did not enter into a new MOU but instead, in
November 2005, issued a report that identified general authorities that govern EPA’s

19 H.Rept. 108-792, to accompany H.R. 4818, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005,
Congressional Record, daily edition, November 19, 2004, p. H10850.

and DHS’s respective actions, ongoing projects that reflect coordination, and existing
project-specific MOUs.
This report on roles and responsibilities still may not resolve the potential for
duplication and overlap among agencies. Currently, for example, policies are being
developed both by DHS and EPA, although both agencies are represented on DHS’s
Water Sector Committee through the CIPAC process. Information sharing and
dissemination even in this one sector are occurring through several different
mechanisms: DHS supports the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN),
while drinking water and wastewater utilities also may receive security-related
advisories from two other sources, the WaterISAC and the Water Security Channel.
Some have questioned the multiple advisory groups, on top of existing entities, and
in particular the potential that the several mechanisms for sharing homeland security
information could transmit inconsistent information and make the exchange of
information more complicated, not less. Others are optimistic that the systems and
groups will sort themselves out into compatible and complementary networks of
information sharing, but that process could take considerable time.
In its March 2006 report, GAO commented on these multiple information
services designed to communicate information to the water sector, but also
acknowledged EPA’s and DHS’s ongoing efforts to coordinate their activities to
advance water sector security. GAO recommended that DHS and the Water Sector
Coordinating Council identify areas where information-sharing networks supported
by EPA and DHS (especially the WaterISAC and HSIN) could be better coordinated
to avoid operational duplications and overlap and to ensure that security threat
information is provided to water systems on a timely basis. Water utility industry
groups responded to GAO’s recommendation by saying that such coordination efforts
are, in fact, underway, and DHS is reportedly reviewing HSIN and considering its
future role in information sharing.
DHS-EPA coordination again received congressional attention in the 110th
Congress. In its draft report on FY2009 funding for DHS, the House Appropriations
Committee included report language urging DHS to work with EPA on water security
issues. The report encouraged the National Protection and Programs Directorate of
DHS to work with EPA “to improve federal outreach to water system managers,
increase support and guidance on implementation of risk assessment techniques, and
publicize effective protective measures that can be taken to increase water system
securi t y.”20
Beyond the water sector itself, there is interest in larger coordination issues
involving cross-sector interdependencies of critical infrastructures. As noted
previously, water utilities are dependent on electric power to treat and distribute
power, and electric power is essential to collecting and treating wastewater.
Adequate and uninterrupted supply of water is necessary to support municipal

20 U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Appropriations, “Draft report to accompany
Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, 2009,” 110th Congress, 2d session,
p. 97, available from [http://www.cq.com].

firefighting.21 When disasters occur, what affects power also affects water supply,
also affects sanitary services, also affects communications capability. The National
Infrastructure Advisory Council, which provides the President, through DHS, with
advice on infrastructure security, reportedly is considering using the water sector as
the focus for a study of sector interdependencies.
Another information issue concerns the extent of EPA’s ability to collect and
analyze security data from water utilities, especially information in vulnerability
assessments submitted under the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act (discussed below).
EPA officials believe that the act permits reviewing utility submissions for overall
compliance and allows aggregation of data but precludes the agency from asking for
or analyzing data showing changes in security levels, as a safeguard against
unintended release of such information. Others, including EPA’s Inspector General,
believe that EPA has the authority and responsibility to review and analyze the
information in order to identify and prioritize threats and to develop plans to protect
drinking water supplies.
Among the research needs being addressed are tools for vulnerability and risk
analysis, identification and response to biological/chemical agents, real-time
monitoring of water supplies, and development of information technology. The cost
of additional protections and how to pay for them are issues of great interest, and
policymakers continue to consider resource needs and how to direct them at public
and private sector priorities. A critical issue for drinking water and wastewater
utilities is how to pay for physical security improvements, since currently there are
no federal funds dedicated to these purposes, and utilities generally must pay for
improvements using the same revenue or funding sources also needed for other types
of capital projects.
Congressional Activity. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, Congress
has conducted oversight on a number of these issues and considered legislation to
address various policy issues, including government reorganization, and additional
Appropriations. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress has
provided appropriations to the Corps, the Bureau, and EPA for security-related
programs and activities to protect water infrastructure, as shown in Figure 1.
Through FY2008, appropriations have totaled $794.4 million.
For both the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers,
appropriations immediately after September 11 were intended to support risk
assessment of needed security improvements, followed by implementation of
measures to ensure the safety and security of the public, Reclamation and Corps
employees, and the facilities. For example, since FY2004, both agencies have
implemented physical hardening and other protective measures, as well as personnel
and information security. Both agencies continue to assess and reassess security
needs at their facilities as part of ongoing efforts to ensure their long-term security.
Reclamation’s security budget includes a law enforcement program (guards and

21 Improving the Nation’s Water Security, p. 10.

surveillance), facility fortification, studies, and review, plus specific amounts
designated for five National Critical Infrastructure (NCI) dam facilities: Hoover,
Shasta, Grand Coulee, Glen Canyon, and Fulsom. The Corps’ budget as shown in
Figure 1 covers recurring security costs (i.e., guards and monitoring) for its
administrative buildings and other general use facilities. The Corps also funds
certain project-specific facility security upgrades; these amounts cannot be easily
identified in the Corps’ budget and are not reflected in the figure.
Figure 1. Water Infrastructure Security Appropriations
(millions of dollars)

26 0
149. 4
104. 4
72. 7 66 . 3 71 . 8 69 . 9 76. 2
FY2002FY2003FY2004FY2005FY2006FY2007FY2008FY2009 req.
EPA Re c l a m a t i o n CO E
Funding appropriated to EPA has supported a number of activities. Significant
portions of appropriations in FY2002 and FY2003 were for EPA grants for
vulnerability assessments carried out by large and medium-size drinking water
systems, to assist them in complying with requirements of the Public Health Security
and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (P.L. 107-288, discussed below).
EPA appropriations support training and development of voluntary industry practices
for security, and grants to states and territories to coordinate activities for critical
water infrastructure security efforts ($5 million per year). EPA also provides support
for water security information sharing for drinking water and wastewater utilities
through the WaterISAC and the Water Security Channel. EPA has supported two
special initiatives since FY2006: a pilot program to design, deploy, and test
biological or other contamination warning systems at drinking water systems (the
Water Sector Initiative, see page 8), and a related program, the Water Alliance for
Threat Reduction (WATR), to train utility operators at the highest risk systems.
Legislative Issues. In May 2002, Congress approved the Public Health
Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (P.L. 107-288). Title IV
of that act required drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 persons to

conduct vulnerability analyses and to submit the assessments to EPA. The legislation
authorized grant funding to assist utilities in meeting these requirements. (For
information, see CRS Report RL31294, Safeguarding the Nation’s Drinking Water:
EPA and Congressional Actions, by Mary Tiemann.) Legislation authorizing
Reclamation to contract with local law enforcement to protect its facilities also was
enacted during the 107th Congress (P.L. 107-69).
In 2001, the House and Senate considered but did not enact legislation
authorizing a six-year grant program for research and development on security of
water supply and wastewater treatment systems (H.R. 3178, S. 1593). Some of the
drinking water research provisions in these bills were included in the Bioterrorism
Preparedness Act. In 2002, the House approved a bill authorizing $220 million in
grants and other assistance for vulnerability assessments by wastewater treatment
utilities (H.R. 5169), but the Senate did not act on a related bill (S. 3037).
In the 108th Congress, legislation authorizing vulnerability assessment grants to
wastewater utilities was approved by the House, by a 413-7 vote (H.R. 866, identical
to H.R. 5169 in the 107th Congress). The Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee approved related legislation (S. 1039, S.Rept. 108-149). No further
action occurred, due in part to concerns expressed by some that the legislation did not
require that vulnerability assessments be submitted to EPA, as is the case with
drinking water assessments required by the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness Act.
Wastewater security issues again received some attention in the 109th Congress.
In May 2006, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved S.
2781 (S.Rept. 109-345). It was similar to S. 1039 in the 108th Congress in that it
would have encouraged wastewater utilities to conduct vulnerability assessments and
authorized $220 million to assist utilities with assessments and preparation of site
security plans. It also included provisions responding to GAO’s March 2006 report
that found that utilities have made little effort to address vulnerabilities of collection
systems, which may be used by terrorists to introduce hazardous substances or as
access points for underground travel to a potential target.22 S. 2781 would have
authorized EPA to conduct research on this topic. During consideration of the bill,
the Senate committee rejected an amendment that would have required, rather than
encouraged, treatment works to conduct vulnerability assessments and also would
have required high-risk facilities to switch from using chlorine and similar hazardous
substances to other chemicals that are often referred to as “inherently safer
technologies.” There was no further action on this bill. Similar legislation was
introduced in the 110th Congress (S. 1968), but no further action occurred.
Another issue of recent interest has been the concerns of a number of water
supply and power users of Bureau of Reclamation facilities about paying for security
costs at these facilities. Since September 11, Reclamation has increased security and
anti-terrorist measures at federal multi-purpose dams. From 2002 through 2004, all
of the incremental security costs were paid by the federal government. However,

22 U.S. Government Accountability Office. Securing Wastewater Facilities, Utilities Have
Made Upgrades but Further Improvements to Key System Components May Be Limited by
Costs and Other Constraints, GAO-06-390, March 2006, 64 p.

since 2005, the Administration has requested that users should fully reimburse
government for the guards and patrols portion of site security costs. In the
Administration’s view, project beneficiaries have had several years to adjust their
expectations, budgets, and planning for current guard and patrol levels and that post-
September 11 cost increases should now be considered project O&M expenses
subject to allocation among project purposes and reimbursement from beneficiaries.
Many users have argued that security costs for which the general public is the
beneficiary, including obligations for national defense, should properly be the federal
government’s responsibility. The issue is especially a concern for beneficiaries of
Reclamation’s five high-priority dams, such as Hoover and Grand Coulee, which
have the largest security needs, because these users are being asked to pay a
proportionally higher share of total security costs than users of other Reclamation
facilities. Hearings on the issue were held by the House Natural Resources
Committee, in June 2006, and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,
in July 2007. A compromise of sorts is reflected in legislation enacted in May 2008.
Section 513 of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-229)
requires water and power users to pay for the cost of security guards, but sets an
$18.9 million cap on the amount to be paid by users.
The issue of security of wastewater and drinking water utilities also was debated
in connection with legislation dealing with chemical manufacturing plant security.
As part of a bill providing FY2007 appropriations for the Department of Homeland
Security, Congress included provisions that give DHS authority to establish risk-
based and performance-based security standards at the nation’s chemical plants (the
Chemical Security Act, Section 550 of P.L. 109-295). Under the legislation,
chemical plants are required to conduct vulnerability assessment and create and
implement site security plans based on identified vulnerabilities.23 During
consideration of comprehensive chemical plant security bills during the 109th
Congress, some had proposed that water systems (drinking water and wastewater) be
included in the legislation because many store or use extremely hazardous
substances, such as chlorine gas, that can injure or kill citizens if the chemicals are
suddenly released (see page 5). However, water system officials argued that the
water sector should be excluded, because facilities have already undertaken
vulnerability assessments (as required for many drinking water systems under the

2002 Bioterrorism Act, and as many wastewater utilities have done voluntarily).

Further, they argued that requirements in the legislation were potentially duplicative
of Risk Management Plan provisions in the Clean Air Act, which apply to more than

2,800 of the largest water systems.

The chemical plant security provisions in P.L. 109-295 endorsed these
arguments and excluded water systems from the new requirements. Implementing
regulations promulgated by DHS in 2007 exempted water systems from security
standards. However, under the statute, the DHS rules will sunset on September 30,
2009. The 110th Congress considered legislation to reauthorize DHS’s chemical
security program, but no legislation was enacted. At issue were two pending

23 For additional information, see CRS Report RL33847, Chemical Facility Security:
Regulation and Issues for Congress, by Dana Shea.

legislative proposals. H.R. 5533 would revise and extend the chemical facility
security program and would continue to exempt water facilities. H.R. 5577 would
revise the U.S. chemical plant security program and would include drinking water
and wastewater facilities in its coverage.24
At a House Homeland Security Committee oversight hearing in July 2007, DHS
Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Bob Stephan said that the water
sector’s exclusion from the Chemical Security Act created a “regulatory gap,”
because chemicals that are covered by the act, including chlorine, are found at
unregulated wastewater and drinking water facilities, as well as regulated
conventional chemical plants. He also said that DHS is reviewing ways to boost
safeguards at water utilities that use large amounts of gaseous chlorine. Similarly, in
testimony before a House subcommittee in June 2008, EPA and DHS officials
testified in support of eliminating the current exemption for wastewater and drinking
water facilities from chemical security regulations. Water utilities oppose inclusion
in the DHS program, arguing that it could lead to costly new mandates. The debate
also raises the issue of federal agency roles and leadership. Some were concerned
that legislation such as H.R. 5577 would create uncertainty about coordination
between EPA and DHS and whether EPA’s lead role for the water utility sector
would be altered.
Continuing interest in these issues is possible in the 111th Congress and beyond,
along with interest in how the federal government coordinates its own activities and
communicates policies and information to the water infrastructure sector.

24 Ibid.