Launch Slideshow

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Locked Out

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.


Use it or lose it

Almost half of funding has been returned to federal coffers.

Federal funding for security enhancements is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP). As the lead agency for the Sector-Specific Plan for water and wastewater security, the EPA also provides some funding.

Who's got the money?

Under the HSGP, some specific urban areas and cities can apply directly to the federal government under the Urban Areas Security Initiative. All other grants, such as from the State Homeland Security Program, must go through the states.

Another DHS grant program, the Infrastructure Protection Program (IPP), also funnels money to the states, primarily for transportation-related projects.

Water infrastructure managers can look to the EPA for help, although the funds allocated to states and cities are small. State and Tribal Assistance Grants, for example, awarded $5 million for water infrastructure last year. State Revolving Funds can be a good resource, especially for smaller and disadvantaged communities, but appropriations to this federal program have consistently declined.

Will I get a grant or a loan?

Most DHS money comes in the form of grants. DHS allocates this money based on risk, which is defined as the product of three variables:

  • Threat—the likelihood of an attack
  • Vulnerability—the relative exposure to attack
  • Consequence—the expected impact of an attack.

Some grants require matching funds. In the agencies' capacity as response/recovery agencies, funding through DHS and the EPA may be distributed as low-interest loans.

How much is available?

Total HSGP funding rose to a high of $2.9 billion in 2004, but is down to $1.7 billion this year. Although the EPA's FY 2009 budget tags $170 million for water infrastructure security, little of that is for direct grants to cities.

Is all the funding being spent and, if not, why not?

From the HSGP's creation in 2002 to fiscal year 2007, about 30%—or $5 billion of $16 billion—of all the federal money approved by Congress for distribution to individual state anti-terrorist and natural disaster response agencies such as police, fire, and other emergency workers hasn't been spent.

Unspent EPA funds are generally closed out.

Reasons given for unspent funds include:

  • Long-range projects require gradual use of funds
  • Heavy demand for new equipment causes shortages
  • Smaller communities don't have required matching funds
  • Stringent contracting/bidding rules create bottlenecks
  • Lack of organization and direction can lead to inaction
  • Cooperation/coordination causes delays.