Water Agencies Consider Heightened Security

Water managers from across California today discussed options for securing the state's water resources, including measures to guard facilities, test water and respond to terrorist and biological attack emergencies. The representatives are gathered this week for the Association of California Water Agencies' (ACWA) fall conference in San Diego at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center. More than 1,800 are expected to attend the three-day event.

The noon issue panel featured managers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Health Services (DHS) and California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

"We clearly don't have all the answers--we're on the steep part of the learning curve" for terrorist attack readiness, said the Corps' Steve Stockton. However, Stockton said, the Corps is partnering with state and local agencies to develop detection, protection and response plans and assure that operations at water facilities can continue in the face of any threat.

Several new cross-agency actions were detailed by the panel during the session, from vulnerability surveys, to infrastructure security partnerships with industry, to expanded law enforcement staffing and upgraded laboratory testing facilities. The group painted the picture of local, state and federal agencies hardening their level of readiness, and re-securing the facilities after having shelved emergency Y2K plans.

"There have been so many natural disasters in the state that the utilities have a certain level of preparation," said Dr. Dave Spath, chief of the DHS' division of drinking water and environmental management. Still, Stockton said, "we can't have absolute protection -- you can't buy 'no risk.'" In light of this, panelists including Spath reaffirmed the message that continued information sharing and infrastructure upgrades are essential.

ACWA has worked closely between its members and state and federal agencies to bring water supplies to higher readiness amid a new era of heightened security.

ACWA is a statewide association whose 440 public water agency members collectively deliver 90 percent of the water in California for industrial, residential and agricultural use.


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