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Water: Legislation & Directives

Legislation and Directives

The government has promulgated legislation and directives in recognition of the increased need to protect the nation's water supply and utilities from terrorist attacks. The Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs) and the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (Bioterrorism Act) of 2002 specifically denote the responsibilities of EPA and the water sector in:

  • Assessing vulnerabilities of water utilities
  • Developing strategies for responding to and preparing for emergencies and incidents
  • Promoting information exchange among stakeholders
  • Developing and using technological advances in water security

These directives and laws supplement existing legislation, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act, which have always had the goals of promoting a clean and safe supply of water for the nation's population and protecting the integrity of the nation's waterways. These directives and laws affect the actions and obligations of EPA, the Water Security Division, and water utilities, and they are described below.

Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs)

The government uses these directives to disseminate Presidential and Homeland Security decisions on national security matters.

HSPDs 7, 8, 9, and 10 are of particular relevance to water security issues.

HSPD 7: Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection

HSPD 7 designates EPA as the sector specific agency responsible for infrastructure protection activities for the nation's drinking water and wastewater systems. As such, EPA is responsible for:

  • Identifying, prioritizing, and coordinating infrastructure protection activities for the nation's drinking water and water treatment systems;
  • Working with federal departments and agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector to facilitate vulnerability assessments;
  • Encouraging the development of risk management strategies to protect against and mitigate the effects of potential attacks on critical resources; and
  • Developing mechanisms for information sharing and analysis.

Under HSPD 7, the Water Security Division has been tasked with developing a water sector specific plan as input to the National Infrastructure Protection Plan that the Department of Homeland Security must produce. The sector specific plan must address processes for:

  • Identifying assets within the sector;
  • Identifying and assessing vulnerabilities, and prioritizing assets within the sector;
  • Developing sector specific strategic protective programs; and
  • Measuring the effectiveness of the sector specific critical infrastructure protection program.

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HSPD 8: National Preparedness

HSPD 8 establishes policies to strengthen the preparedness to prevent and respond to threatened or actual domestic terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies by establishing mechanisms for improved delivery of federal preparedness assistance to state and local governments.

HSPD 9: Defense of United States Agriculture and Food

Under HSPD 9, EPA is to develop a robust, comprehensive surveillance and monitoring program to provide early warning in the event of a terrorist attack using biological, chemical, or radiological contaminants. HSPD 9 also directs EPA to develop a nationwide laboratory network to support the routine monitoring and response requirements of the surveillance program. HSPD 10, which is currently a classified document, basically reaffirms EPA's responsibilities under HSPD 9 while adding a clear directive on the Agency's responsibilities in decontamination efforts.

The following programs have been developed by EPA in response to HSPD 9:

Water Security Initiative
EPA is is implementing a demonstration project program to design, deploy, and evaluate a model contamination warning system for drinking water security. The program, which is being developed in partnership with select cities and laboratories, responds to a Homeland Security Presidential Directive that charges EPA to develop surveillance and monitoring systems to provide early detection of water contamination.

Water Laboratory Alliance
The purpose of the WLA is to provide the drinking water sector with an integrated nationwide network of laboratories with the analytical capabilities and capacity to support monitoring and surveillance, response, and remediation of intentional and unintentional drinking water supply contamination events involving chemical, biological, and radiochemical contaminants.

HSPD 10: Biodefense for the 21st Century

HSPD 10 provides directives to further strengthen the Biodefense Program through threat awareness, prevention and protection, surveillance and detection, and response and recovery.

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The Water SSP is a broad-based Water Sector critical infrastructure protection implementation strategy developed under the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Protection Plan and was produced by EPA in coordination with Water Sector security partners which includes our Water Sector Coordinating Council and Government Coordinating Council.

Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act)

Title IV of the Act addresses drinking water security and safety. Title IV requires drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 persons to conduct assessments of their vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks or other intentional acts.

  • Drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 persons must develop response measures to incidents that could substantially disrupt a system's ability to provide a safe, reliable supply of drinking water or otherwise present significant public health concerns.

  • EPA has certain responsibilities in protecting the nation's water supply. For example, EPA is to provide:
    • Information on potential threats to water systems;
    • Strategies for responding to potential incidents;
    • Information protection protocols for vulnerability assessments in its possession; and
    • Research studies in areas relevant to water security.

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The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

The SDWA is the main federal law that promotes the quality of the nation's drinking water and regulates the public water supply and its sources. It established the first mandatory national program to protect public health by promoting the safety of drinking water. Under the SDWA, EPA:

  • Sets standards for drinking water quality;
  • Oversees the states, tribes, territories, localities, and water suppliers that implement these standards; and
  • Provides a framework for the collaboration of these groups.

A 1996 amendment expanded the Act to further encompass issues of source water protection, training, funding for improvements, the role of public awareness, and protection and prevention activities.

Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act)

The Act employs a variety of regulatory and nonregulatory tools to reduce direct pollutant discharges into the nation's waterways, finance wastewater treatment facilities, and manage polluted runoff. It also gives EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs and to set wastewater standards for industry and limitations on contaminants in surface waters. The broader goal of the Act is to help restore and maintain the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the nation's waters. The watershed based strategies in the Act have evolved to give equal emphasis to protecting healthy waters and restoring impaired ones. They also encourage the involvement of stakeholder groups in strategies for maintaining water quality and security.

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