Protecting Our Water

"When you drink the water, remember the spring." - Chinese proverb I grew up in the shadow of a water tower. On hot summer nights I would climb to the top, sit with my back against the tank and wait for the cooling breeze that would arrive just after midnight. Then someone discovered aerosol spray paint. A creative lover painted a giant heart emblazoned with his and his sweetheart's initials on my water tower. As a result, the waterworks installed a barbed-wire climbing barrier around the base, blocking access to the ladder and ending my nightly ascent.

Those were the simpler days after the Great War, which, we were told, had brought peace to the world. On the other side of the earth, seeds of another war were sprouting in the sands of the Middle East. We saw the bitter harvest a half century later on the morning of September 11, 2001.

New Threat, New Legislation
As America recovered from the shock of the attacks, Congress enacted a flurry of acts with the intent of protecting our infrastructure from terrorists. Legislation affects nearly every infrastructure of our daily lives: transportation, food, energy and water. Among the reams of legislative paper is Public Law 107-188, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. This act provides guidelines and grants to protect America's food, drug and water supply.

The President's National Strategy for Homeland Security delegated the protection of the nation's water supply to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Because the EPA already manages programs to ensure water quality, adding responsibility for security management was a natural fit. Among the EPA's goals is "...assessing and reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening detection and response capabilities for critical infrastructures."

The EPA maintains a Water Security Web site ( with links to volumes of information, including the Water and Wastewater Security Product Guide. The guide organizes products by three concepts: detect, delay and respond. Product descriptions are generic, though some vendors' products are listed as examples.

Planning Resources
Large cities have long considered security a requirement for their water treatment and distribution facilities. Their security plans were designed to combat equipment theft and vandalism rather than to deter bioterrorism. Metropolitan water plants use fence protection extensively, and some have advanced intrusion detection devices such as CCTV, fence sensors and buried cable sensors. However, the majority rely on physical security products such as locks, barbed wire and ladder access controls to deter intruders. The Homeland Security Act authorized grants to cities to purchase additional security systems for water utilities.

The EPA's Drinking Water Academy, in collaboration with the Association of Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) and the National Rural Water Association (NRWA), developed the Security Vulnerability Self-Assessment Guide for small drinking-water systems serving populations between 3,300 and 10,000. The assessment is comprehensive and could serve as a guide to other utilities and processing plants as well. In addition to asking administrators to list the facility's physical plant, this assessment questions critical security-related assets such as fences, lighting, locking hardware, access control and intrusion detection and response.

Budgetary Complaints
A frequent complaint from state and city officials is that the Department of Homeland Security issues initiatives and mandates, but the funds provided to meet its goals are inadequate. At first glance, it would appear that the DHS 2004 counterterrorism grants would more than cover the cost of increased security expenses. However, of the $2.2 billion in grants, only one fourth ($497 million) is earmarked for prevention and deterrence.

Further, the total grant is shared by 50 states, five territories, and many cities and towns. The 2004 Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) allocations for cities total $671 million and are distributed by infrastructure threat rather than by population alone. For example, the City of San Francisco ranks 14th in population but is fifth on the list of DHS grants due to critical infrastructure.

The 50 largest U.S. cities receive the highest grant funds, and the remainder is divided among thousands of small towns and rural areas. Terrorists have shown that they target high-profile institutions. However, as these targets become highly protected, the probability of attacks on soft targets increases.

At the time of the 9/11 attacks, many rural and small-town water treatment plants lacked the most basic security assets, such as perimeter fencing. Faced with budget cuts and the smallest portion of DHS grants, smaller utilities struggle to meet the requirements of the EPA's Homeland Security Plan. Advanced perimeter intrusion detection technologies such as buried sensor cable and seismic and microwave fence detectors would be ideal for many sites. Regretfully, the cost to retrofit existing sites with these technologies is beyond the budgets of smaller water districts. Several manufacturers have broadened their security products to meet the demands of both large and small utilities.

Equipment and Access Protection
Mechanical locks and chains traditionally protect sensitive areas. Ingersoll-Rand's Kryptonite Division, well known by bicycle and motorcycle owners, offers heavy-duty locking and portable equipment security products for industrial and utility applications. Kryptonite manufactures heavy-duty chain and padlock sets, including stainless steel marine padlocks and aboveground and in-ground anchor points for securing portable equipment.

Key control is of utmost importance in maintaining a secure facility. IR's Schlage Lock Division's Primus(r) cylinders are restricted and offer high pick resistance. Schlage offers network and offline electronic locks that have time controls and event logging. These locks will work with most existing magstripe and proximity card technologies. In the event a card is lost or stolen, the locks can be quickly reprogrammed with a hand-held PDA.

Climbing Deterrents and IDS
Security professionals share a great concern about intruders climbing on structures and tanks. Since the attacks of 9/11, utilities' primary focus has been on measures to prevent terrorism. However, intruders that gain access to utilities pose a threat to the property and themselves. An intruder who is injured on a hazard that is not properly protected can sue the utility regardless of his or her intent. This writer served as an expert defense witness on a case in which intruders who had no legitimate business being in a facility, and in fact were actually vandalizing the property, were injured. They claimed the hazards within the perimeter were not properly protected and won a settlement.

Proper climbing protection includes blocking access to ladders and service catwalks. RB Industries of Greensboro, NC, makes a locking ladder cover that is an eight-foot-high by three- foot-wide aluminum shroud that blocks access to the bottom of a tower ladder. Manufacturers of similar products include Carbis Inc., Serrmi Products Inc. and Brock Manufacturing. In 1993, Protection Technologies Inc. of Reno, NV, released its Pyramid series dual-technology stereo Doppler intrusion detector for outdoor use. The product is ideal for spot detection and for use with other perimeter intrusion detection technologies. Recently ProTech developed a variation on this product, the Pyramid LT. Using dual-channel microwave and passive infrared technology, the new sensor detects one-way motion in the outdoor environment. This makes the product ideal for detecting intruders climbing ladders or towers. When placed at the top of a structure and aimed downward, the detector will alarm if a person or object moves more than 40 inches toward the sensor.

In tests and field conditions, the detector remains stable in a driving rainstorm because water and airborne debris moves across or away from the detection field. Likewise, vehicular and pedestrian traffic beneath the sensor do not cause nuisance alarms. Installers can field configure the LT to alarm when someone is moving away from the detector or approaching and receding from the sensor, making it ideal for catwalks and emergency escape ladders. The output of the Pyramid LT is a dry contact transfer that can be connected to any peripheral device such as lighting, CCTV or a wireless alarm transmitter. It was quickly adopted by several water utilities in the United States because it offers reliable protection against climbing. The applications for the Pyramid LT are not limited to water utilities. It also works for for high- tension transmission line towers, microwave telecommunication and grain storage structures. Protection Technologies builds the sensor into an explosion-proof enclosure for use in hazardous and explosive environments.

Remember the Spring
A Chinese proverb says, "When you drink the water, remember the spring." The Department of Homeland Security has heeded this advice. Protecting the nation's water supply from terrorism is a high priority of the DHS. Water, food and fuel production facilities rely on physical security, electronic intrusion detection and response systems to reduce the threat of vandalism, malicious contamination and potential injury litigation.

The DHS provides grants to protect water, food and fuel facilities. However, the funds are allocated to vast infrastructure. Utilities must choose protective measures within tight budgets. The EPA's Water and Wastewater Security Products Guide is a great place to begin the search for the right products to remember your spring.

Dick Zunkel is a contributing editor and frequent contributing writer to Security Technology and Design.