and needs to be improved. Modification of certain provisions should be explored so that current legislation continues to adhere to its original spirit while also allowing authorities to introduce selective physical security for sensitive parts of the system.
Because water systems are typically designed, constructed, maintained, and owned by local water companies or authorities, there is little standardization. This impedes the introduction of new processes and technology. Further standardization is needed, however, across local jurisdictions that control water supply, distribution, and treatment; in that way, neighboring providers may assist one another, and the people that they serve, in a crisis. In addition, because some local jurisdictions do not work well together, mutual aid and cooperation pacts need to be created before a crisis arises.
As noted above, several major cities develop their water supplies in remote locations and bring that raw water to the cities through long and often unprotected aqueduct conduits. Stocking sections of replacement conduit and developing scenarios and plans for rapid repair could lessen the threat of extended loss of raw water supply if sections of the aqueduct were destroyed by a terrorist act. Those responsible for systems dependent on aqueducts should take these and other appropriate steps so as to be better prepared for a possible attack.
The water sector’s history of research on exotic contaminants, drought management, and systems analysis could be reevaluated for the lessons it teaches for security. The availability of specialized water testing is limited in most parts of the country, however, and legal liabilities make laboratories reluctant to participate in testing. This constraint could be removed with revisions to applicable laws; the dearth of laboratory capacity poses a serious limitation to our ability to respond to a contamination attack on the water system. Furthermore, terrorists could use a variety of contaminants. We need to evaluate a tiered approach to testing, beginning with broad characteristics that suggest change from a baseline. Examples might be change in total organic halide, change in ultraviolet light absorbance, or change in refractive property.
Recommendation 8.13: Identify and implement revisions to applicable laws or statutes, thereby removing the constraints to testing public water supplies for dangerous contaminants that might be employed by terrorists. Take