Water Community Security Partners Express Mutual Appreciation

On July 8th, EPA’s Water Security Division hosted a meeting of the Security Partners group that includes ASDWA, WaterISAC, AWWA, RCAP, NESC, APHL, APWA, and others with an interest in working collaboratively to enhance our collective emergency planning and resiliency capabilities.

This meeting had a special “appreciation” focus. OGWDW Director Peter Grevatt joined the group to say “thanks” for the broad array of work that has been accomplished. He noted that the initial security work focus was on responses to terrorism, growing out of the 9-11 tragedy; but a lot has happened since then to broaden the reach and depth of how we define water security: Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy (just to name a few events) brought an expanded all hazards focus to our work; the West Virginia Spill and Toledo HABs incident reinforced the criticality of our partnership with the laboratory community; and, most recently, the threats from cyber hackers and viruses have added more to our resiliency plate.

Grevatt went on to speak about our shared purpose across the Water Sector – to protect public health. In looking toward the future, Grevatt spoke about the ways in which water security intertwines with other water programs. For example, he sees the Toledo incident as a challenge for both water infrastructure and source water protection. The fact that we experience, on average, 700 main breaks each day across the nation is representative of the expanded definition of ‘all hazards.’ He also looked at opportunities to take a more holistic view of the water sector and referenced AWWA’s Total Water Solution and WEF’s One Water. He also spoke briefly about California’s drought-driven reuse initiative and wondered how and what we should be sampling in a water reuse scenario.

He closed with another expression of thanks to all of the organizations present and their respective memberships for all of their good efforts, especially for a voluntary initiative. Representatives from the various partner organizations expressed their thanks back to EPA and the Water Security Division for the numerous opportunities to be collaborative and to partner in the array of security initiatives that have been developed.

The meeting then turned to the issue of Climate Change. Curt Baranowski, the WSD lead for climate initiatives, described the array of tools available through the Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) program. He observed that the program drivers are found in the National Climate Assessment, Federal Climate Action Plan, the Climate Adaptation Executive Order, EPA’s Clean Water Program; and identified water utilities’ needs.

Baranowski explained that most of the available tools are now web-based. Some of the more recent tools include the Adaptation Strategies Guide; the Extreme Weather Events Workshop Planner; the Storm Surge Inundation & Hurricane Frequency Map (based on the NOAA SLOSH [sea, lake and overland sources for hurricanes] model and FEMA hurricane strike data); and the new updates to CREAT – the Climate Change Risk Assessment Tool – that now has a grid cells access option to let users focus on specific areas rather than having to download the entire CREAT tool. This is one of the EPA tools that is moving to a web-based format as part of Version 3. WSD hopes to be release the final web version of CREAT in mid-October. They are also planning to host tool training sessions throughout FY 16. WSD is also is planning to host a water utility case studies website in the near future.

The meeting closed with a “round the room” update of various partner activities. ASDWA spoke about its newly forming ad hoc Climate Committee; partnering efforts with both WSD and EPA’s Sustainable Systems Team to identify mutually beneficial and supportive actions between and among emergency preparedness/resiliency and capacity development and operator certification initiatives for small systems; the publication of the third and final phase of the State-WARN perspectives project; and partnering with WSD to identify targeted information sharing opportunities for state drinking water program staff.