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Chapter 2 Organizing Principles for Water Security The Water Security Research and Technical Support Action Plan (Action Plan) includes a broad suite of research and technical support topics that address many issues of pressing importance for preventing and managing serious attacks on the nation's water systems. Given the urgency and short time frame under which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working on water security issues, the panel commends the agency for the speed and diligence of its efforts. Nevertheless, the development of the EPA's water security plans has reached a critical juncture, as implementation is just getting underway. The EPA will need to prioritize its efforts to meet urgent needs while simultaneously preserving a longer-term research and technical support strategy for water security and remaining mindful of the agency's other essential tasks that contribute to the public health and security. Given the time and resource constraints on the water security program, it is clear that some kind of overarching prioritization is needed. It will be impossible to harden water infrastructure to the extent needed to eliminate all vulnerabilities, and the expense of many preventive actions and technologies may be high relative to the risk reduction generated. Moreover, if an event were to happen tomorrow, water systems, local and state health departments, and emergency response agencies would have to respond on the basis of whatever information was available. Thus, the basic organizing principles of the EPA water security research and technical support agenda should be to emphasize a continuing increase in the effectiveness and efficiency of our response and recovery capacity while identifying cost-effective preventive or mitigative countermeasures. Central to this objective is the development of a continually evolving integrated prevention and response guidance for utilities and responders, as recommended in the panel's first report (see Part I), which would weave together protocols, databases, training, and methodologies developed in the Action Plan effort. The Action Plan recognizes that information is an essential component of effective response and recovery programs, but there should be additional emphasis on making this information immediately useful. The information needed to respond to a water security event should be gathered and made available to those who might need it at every stepó 64
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Organizing Principles for Water Security 65 not just the final step. The ability to respond and recover will be a process of successive approximations that will improve as information and methods improve. The Action Plan should be implemented with this iterative process in mind. il The implications of the above are that key tasks that have relatively quick and mmediate value should be given higher priority over longer-term projects that, while worthwhile, compete for human ant! financial resources. An example of a short-term, immediately valuable project is the harvesting of peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed scientific and technical literature (e.g., unclassified military documents) for pertinent information and the assembling of that information in a database that allows unimpeded access and use by any personnel who might need it (e.g., rapid response teams from the EPA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], or local and state public health personnel). Within this project, the most useful and relevant information should be made available as soon as possible. For most chemical or biological agents, the most important information pertains to an agent s removal or inactivation by water treatment processes already in use. In some cases, responders may only need to know whether a specific agent (e.g., a virus) is more or less resistant than the agents for which current water treatment technologies are already designed. Other valuable information includes potential health impacts, relevant routes of exposure, decay rates for chemicals, and survival time for microorganisms. Where feasible, similar contaminants can be lumped into categories to hasten the production of usable information. An example of a longer- term activity that should proceed on a less urgent schedule is the development of a master contaminant database with comprehensive, experimentally determined information on each contaminant. In keeping with this strategy, the EPA should identify a minimum required data set for response and remediation at present and then gradually work to improve the levels of knowledge. A potential danger of the Action Plan, as it is currently expressed, is that some areas could generate information that is too detailed for our present state of response capabilities while other projects that could produce more general but useful results, such as risk communication strategies and information dissemination, lag behind. The EPA should strive to keep the production of useful water security projects in phase with current response capabilities, so that responders can be as effective as possible at any given point in time. The following bullets constitute organizing principles for water security recommended by the panel. Overall goal. To improve the security of the nation s water systems. Strategy. Develop a practical program of water security research and technical support, emphasizing a continuing increase in the effectiveness and efficiency of our response and recovery capacity while identifying cost-effective countermeasures based on an understanding of the nature and likelihood of potential threats. Suggested strategic actions. . Develop and implement a specific management plan within EPA for the realization of the Action Plan that includes adequate continuing financial and human resources and effective, stable leadership to monitor and coordinate the many projects and project managers. Action Plan project managers need to be
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66 A Review of the EPA Water Security Action Plan continually aware of related activities both within and outside EPA in order to minimize duplication of effort and allow integration and updating of protocols as new data are generated. If projects suffer from frequent change of leadership, coordination will be impaired, harming the essential integrating functions of many of the Action Plan s projects. A process and schedule for reviewing the overall water security effort, evaluating its progress and impact, and reassessing its priorities should also be created and implemented. . . . . . Mine existing data for pertinent information and assemble it in an accessible and immediately useable form. Information should be harvested from the literature (both peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed) and through collaboration with knowledgeable personnel, utilizing existing experience in this field among other agencies and experts (e.g., Department of Defense, CDC). Develop effective information transfer and two-way communication at the first stage of research project planning. Results that are not accessible, are too complex, are misunderstood, or do not utilize pertinent information from the community are not useful to achieve the overall goals. Communication plans should carefully assess who needs to use the information, so that the research and technical support products can be directed to the appropriate target audiences for maximum effectiveness. Prepare research and technical support results for broad dissemination at the project level. By requiring researchers and technical support staff to produce results in an immediately usable form, the EPA could make information available at the earliest possible time. For example, project staff doing literature searches for existing data should be responsible for providing their findings in a format that is compatible with relevant existing databases. Develop continually evolving guidance and integrated response protocols for utilities and responders in case of a water security emergency. An overarching comprehensive guidance is needed that would weave together the protocols and methodologies developed in the Action Plan and direct a utility through possible prevention strategies, available information resources, and response and recovery actions. The overarching guidance and the individual protocols (or play books) that support it should be made available as soon as possible and continually revised as new information becomes available. Determine the value of water security measures. Cost-benefit data, where feasible, are needed to help water utility mangers assess the value of specific water security measures relative to the estimated costs and risk reduction. The EPA should state its position on the value of improving water security to guide and support utility managers, who must communicate this information to the public and elected and appointed officials in order to obtain financial resources to implement security improvements. Consider the needs and funding constraints of the end users in the development and prioritization of the research and technical support plans. Products that are not affordable to the target users (e.g., utilities, state anal local agencies) are not useful to achieving water security goals.
Representative terms from entire chapter: