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Water: Legislation & Directives

Water Security Initiative

The Water Security (WS) initiative is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that helps drinking water utilities identify and respond to water quality problems, including contamination, in the distribution system.
EPA established this initiative in response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9, under which the Agency must

"develop robust, comprehensive, and fully coordinated surveillance and monitoring systems, including international information, for…water quality that provides early detection and awareness of disease, pest, or poisonous agents.” - Homeland Security Directive 9

EPA is implementing the WS initiative in three phases:

  • Phase I: develop the conceptual design for a system that achieves timely detection of and response to contamination and other water quality incidents in drinking water distribution systems to mitigate public health and economic impacts.
    • EPA completed this phase in 2006 with the design of a comprehensive water quality surveillance and response system.

  • Phase II: demonstrate and evaluate water quality surveillance and response systems through pilots at drinking water utilities and municipalities.
    • EPA completed this phase in 2013. Pilot systems were designed, deployed, and evaluated in Cincinnati, San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, and Dallas.

  • Phase III: develop practical guidance and outreach to promote voluntary national adoption of effective and sustainable water quality surveillance and response systems.
    • This phase is currently underway. EPA expects to release the Water Quality Surveillance and Response System Deployment Tool in 2014. This tool will translate lessons learned from the demonstration pilots into a software application that will assist utilities with developing individualized water quality surveillance and response systems.

Each of these phases is further described in the following fact sheets and brochure.

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

Phase I

Phase II

Phase III

  • Water Security Initiative: Training for Healthcare Providers on Indicators of Drinking Water Contamination (Flash File) (45 pp, 26.3 MB)
    The purpose of this training is to educate public health professionals about indicators of possible drinking water contamination, and convey methods for communicating information to partners who play a role in protecting public health.


  • Water Security Initiative: Interim Guidance on Developing Risk Communication Plans for Drinking Water Utilities (PDF) (45 pp, 2 MB)
    EPA 817-F-13-003, April 2013
    The purpose of this document is to assist drinking water utilities with developing and implementing an effective Risk Communication Plan (RCP) to respond to drinking water contamination incidents.


  • Water Quality Event Detection System Challenge: Methodology and Findings (PDF) (98 pp, 5 MB)
    EPA 817-R-13-002, April 2013

    This report describes the methodology and results from the Event Detection System (EDS) Challenge. Water Quality Event Detection Systems use algorithms with various degrees of sophistication to analyze distribution system water quality data in real time and provide an alert if conditions are deemed abnormal. This study demonstrated a rigorous procedure for the objective analysis of EDS performance, analyzing both invalid alerts and anomaly detection rates. Five commonly used EDSs were evaluated using an extensive dataset containing utility water quality data and simulated contamination events.

  • Water Security Initiative: Guidance for Building Laboratory Capabilities to Respond to Drinking Water Contamination (PDF) (64 pp, 1 MB)
    EPA 817-R-13-001, March 2013

    This document provides an overview of the role of sampling and analysis in a water quality surveillance and response system, provides a framework for building laboratory capabilities for response to water contamination, presents contaminant classes of concern to water security, lists methods for a representative number of contaminants from those classes and provides information on the role of national laboratory networks in responding to drinking water contamination events.


  • Water Security Initiative: Customer Complaint Surveillance - Vendor Integration Webcast (Flash file)
    (22 MB, 45 minutes) Please allow sufficient load time.

    This media presentation provides an overview of the desired features and process for establishing a Customer Complaint Surveillance (CCS) system. Audience: Vendors and integrators of call and work management systems.
    Disclaimer: The Water Security Initiative is a voluntary program for water utilities. Any references to individual entities, products or services are for informational purposes only. No endorsement by EPA is intended or implied.

  • Water Security Initiative: Commissioning Security Systems for Drinking Water Utilities (PDF) (32 pp, 173 K) | Word Version (32 pp, 2 MB)
    EPA 817-R-12-002, February 2012

    This report discusses commissioning of security systems and provides a step-wise commissioning process and commissioning forms for use by drinking water utilities. Commissioning is the testing of both new and upgraded systems to verify that the operation and performance meet contract document requirements. The objectives of commissioning are to ensure security systems perform as designed, meet the owner’s needs, and minimize nuisance alarms that can reduce operator confidence in the systems.

  • Interim Guidance on Developing an Operational Strategy for Contamination Warning Systems (PDF) (88 pp, 1 MB)
    EPA 817-R-08-002, September 2008

    This document will assist drinking water utilities with the development of recommended standard operating procedures for day-to-day operations of the monitoring and surveillance components of a water quality surveillance and response system. The guidance emphasizes development of an operational strategy in a manner that integrates the components to provide a timely indication of a possible contamination incident in the distribution system. A case study of the operational strategy developed for the Cincinnati water quality surveillance and response system pilot is presented.

  • Interim Guidance on Developing Consequence Management Plans for Drinking Water Utilities (PDF) (101 pp, 3 MB)
    EPA 817-R-08-001, September 2008

    This document will assist drinking water utilities with the development of plans for responding to and recovering from a contamination incident in the distribution system. Once a possible contamination incident has been identified by routine monitoring and surveillance components, the consequence management plan defines a process for establishing the credibility of the suspected incident, the response actions that may be taken to minimize public health and economic consequences, and a strategy to restore the system to normal operations. Example decision tree templates and corresponding action items are provided.

  • Interim Guidance on Planning for Contamination Warning System Deployment (PDF) (123 pp, 882 K)
    EPA 817-R-07-002, May 2007

    This document will assist drinking water utilities in planning for the deployment of a water quality surveillance and response system based on the model developed under EPA's Water Security initiative.

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