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The American Water Works Association (AWWA), the largest drinking water organization in the world, commended the Congress and President George W. Bush for enacting the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HR 5710). Among the Act's provisions is the creation of an Information Analysis & Infrastructure Protection Directorate that will focus on protecting the nation's vital infrastructure, which includes drinking water systems.
Established in 1881, AWWA is the oldest and largest nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to safe drinking water in the world. AWWA has 56,000 members worldwide and its 4,500 utility members serve 80 percent of America's population.
The directorate will conduct a comprehensive inventory, collect and analyze intelligence, and identify potential threats to the nation's critical infrastructure, including drinking water systems. The new directorate will then communicate relevant security information to the water sector via the Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), a private organization run by the drinking water and wastewater communities.
"The Homeland Security Act of 2002 benefits water utilities by promoting an increased federal focus and coordination concerning the vulnerability of drinking water infrastructure," said Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of AWWA. "The Act designates a single source of threat information for the ISAC that will go a long way toward better coordination, as well as a streamlined method of communication, between water utilities and the top levels of government."
In June, President Bush signed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act ("Bioterrorism Act") of 2001 (H.R. 3448), which requires drinking water systems to conduct and submit vulnerability assessments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the Bioterrorism Act, these assessments are exempt from disclosure under federal FOIA, but are not exempt under state or local disclosure laws. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 does not change the requirement to submit vulnerability assessments to EPA.
The critical infrastructure information submitted voluntarily under the Homeland Security Act will be exempt from disclosure via federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, as well as under local and state FOIA-type laws.
AWWA is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of drinking water in North America and beyond. AWWA is the largest organization of water professionals in the world. AWWA advances public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the drinking water community. Through our collective strength we become better stewards of water for the greatest good of the people and the environment.