Launch Slideshow

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Locked Out

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    Photo: Sandia National Laboratory

    Bill Hart leads a team of federal and academic researchers that's developing a system for monitoring contaminants in real time. The “Canary” data analysis software for detecting contamination, as well as a Sensor Placement Optimization Toolkit (TEVA-SPOT) for pinpointing key sensor locations, is being tested by Tucson Water in Arizona.

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    Photo: Wirewall by Riverdale

    Fencing is the first line of security for water treatment plants like this one in Houston. Note that the grid pattern is too small to allow a toehold for climbing.

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    Sources: American Society of Civil Engineers, American Water Works Association, and Water Environment Federation

    The cost of risk reductionA cost-risk reduction curve can be a useful tool in determining which security measures to use—and at which point implementing additional security measures would lead to marginal risk reduction. The below graph is an example of a typical cost-to-risk curve.

STAYING UP TO DATE ON THREATS

One way to improve security is to keep water utilities up to date on the latest threats. That's the job of the Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

WaterISAC was created in 2002 by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies under a grant from the EPA. This information service provides its subscribers with comprehensive threat information from a variety of sources. Its experts gather information and disseminate alerts and analysis to the water community. The basic subscription is free to water utility operators, while WaterISAC Pro, with better analysis, costs $200 to $1,000/year depending on the utility's customer base.

“There are a number of information centers out there,” says Lynch. “Critical assets were identified where information sharing was needed—water, electricity, and even banking and chemicals. So it isn't just infrastructure, but anything that could take this country down whether through physical damage or economic damage.”

Even large utilities can't afford to be continuously prepared for a major problem, though, whether it's a terrorist attack or an earthquake or a flood. That's where the Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) comes in.

Through WARN, utilities commit to providing one another with people and equipment in case of an emergency. Driven by the AWWA under a grant from the EPA, the WARN system has been adopted by at least 20 states and soon will be by nearly all states. California emergency planner Ray Riordan told AWWA's Water-Week that water and wastewater utilities are so specialized that they need experts, not generalists, during emergencies.

“Utilities also must fill the gap between the onset of a disaster and the arrival of government aid,” he says. “FEMA is muscular, but not very agile and quick on its feet.”

BRINGING TECHNOLOGY TO BEAR

From monitoring for contaminants to controlling access to closed-circuit video, technology is helping utilities in their quest to make systems more secure.

For example, few water providers monitor for contaminants on a real-time basis, but that may soon change. Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., is working with the EPA, the University of Cincinnati, and Argonne (Ill.) National Laboratory to develop such a system under the EPA's Threat Ensemble Vulnerability Assessment (TEVA) research program (see photo on page 32).

Hach Co. says its Guardian Blue early warning system is the only online, anti-terrorism system certified by DHS. By measuring chlorine, pH, turbidity, conductivity, and TOC, the system analyzes water every 60 seconds for deviations from a baseline. Deviations caused by foreign agents in the water trigger an alarm.

Controlling access is a critical element in system security. Isonas Security Systems' proximity card readers are connected directly to the network, rather than to a control panel, and are powered through Ethernet cabling. Readers can be indoors or out, wired or wireless; this system can control thousands of access points and employees.

Arteco Intelligent Video Solutions detects and triggers alerts in real time, increasing the efficiency of employees who are responsible for multicamera sites. Recently installed at the Louisville, Ohio, water treatment plant, the system can detect the difference between a dog and a man.

CheckLight uses nonpathogenic, contaminant-sensitive, luminescent bacteria and a luminometer to monitor drinking water quality in real time.

Dewberry has developed Disaster Assistance Response and Recovery Technology software that uses a utility's GIS to provide analysis and visualization tools for disaster response, while ESRI has developed ways to use GIS to predict the effects of disasters on infrastructure.

— Palmer is former editor in chief of PUBLIC WORKS, and Newman has worked in the construction industry for more than 30 years as a builder and inspector.

Web extra: For links to the reports and programs mentioned in this article, visit the “article links” page under “resources” at www.pwmag.com.

Web extra: For links to more information on the technologies described in this article, visit the “article links” page under “resources” at www.pwmag.com.