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Water and Power Security Interests Come Together

On Thursday, September 19, EPA’s Water Security Division hosted a Water Sector Power and Black Sky Resilience Summit in Northern Virginia.  Representatives from NOAA, DHS, USACE, the Electric Infrastructure Sector Council, the WaterISAC. US Navy, and the National Governors’ Association joined local water and power utilities to discuss a range of areas of mutual concern.  Beginning with Black Sky threats, the conversation flowed across related topics such as generators and alternative power options, microgrids, critical interdependencies, and communication.

John Felker, Director for the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, spoke about best cybersecurity practices but agreed that they work equally well across a number of security disciplines.  The six practices are:  leadership must own the issue, good cyber hygiene, emphasis on the mission-risk connection, the need to prepare and exercise, the ability to defend the system while continuing to operate, and the need to leverage relationships.

In looking at alternative power options, two wastewater utilities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts described how renewable energy options are being adopted for use.  The Narragansett Bay Commission spoke about their efforts to take advantage of wind, solar, and biogas options to generate power.  The Greater Lawrence Sanitary District (MA) is also using food waste to generate power.

There were also several take away messages from the generator-focused discussion:  backup generators do not equal resilience; fuel service contracts are not the problem – fuel delivery abilities are; and it is essential to strengthen the relationship and mutual understanding of needs between water utilities and the power provider.

The day closed with an interesting presentation about how to take advantage of amateur radio volunteers as an efficient communications tool when more traditional tools such as cell or digital services are not operable or are spotty.  These volunteers are organized through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) to assist in public service and emergency communications.