The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) launched the new Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center (WaterISAC) Web resource yesterday.
The WaterISAC was created to provide security information and terrorist threat alerts to America's drinking water and wastewater utilities. This is the only centralized resource that gathers, analyzes and disseminates threat information specific to the water community.
All U.S. drinking water and wastewater systems are eligible to subscribe to the WaterISAC, developed by AMWA with funding from EPA and guidance from utility managers. Subscription fees are based on the number of people served by the utility.
AMWA President John P. Sullivan, Jr., chief engineer of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, will serve as chairman of the Board of Managers of the WaterISAC.
"In the past year, utility managers have improved security by constructing barriers, changing procedures and installing sophisticated security equipment," Sullivan said. "To ensure that vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans stay up-to-date, the WaterISAC will provide subscribing utilities a constantly updated library of security information."
John C. Farnan, a WaterISAC Board member and general superintendent of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, stated: "Utilities should consider the WaterISAC one of the more important tools in their security toolboxes. The WaterISAC will offer a real edge in the effort to stay secure." Farnan also chairs AMWA's Wastewater Infrastructure Security Task Force.
The WaterISAC was developed at the urging of Presidential Decision Directive 63 and Executive Order 13231. A secure Web-based environment for early warning of potential physical, contamination and cyber threats, the WaterISAC offers a wide array of information and tools and serves as an important link between the water sector and federal environmental, homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence and public health agencies.
Specific products and services include:
• Alerts on potential terrorist activity.
• Information on water security from federal homeland security, intelligence, law enforcement, public health and environment agencies.
• Databases of chemical, biological and radiological agents.
• Physical vulnerabilities and security solutions.
• Notification of cyber vulnerabilities and technical fixes.
• Research, reports and other information.
• A secure means for reporting security incidents.
• Vulnerability assessment tools and resources.
• Emergency preparedness and response resources.
• Secure electronic bulletin boards and chat rooms on security topics.
• Summaries of open-source security information.
More than a security clearinghouse, the WaterISAC takes the additional steps of analyzing information and identifying trends. This extremely sensitive and valuable information is then distributed to subscribers through encrypted email and a secure portal. And using secure electronic bulletin boards and chat rooms, drinking water and wastewater systems have a forum for sharing and discussing sensitive information.
Analysts for the WaterISAC have top secret security clearances and operate under strict protocols. The computer servers for the WaterISAC's secure portal reside in a protected, government-approved facility.
Information is gathered from intelligence and law enforcement agencies, water utility incident reports, research foundations, federal public health and research agencies, publicly available information and private organizations, such as think tanks. WaterISAC analysts then assess, sanitize and disseminate the information, enabling managers to make better-informed security decisions.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information, subscribers must agree in advance to protect the WaterISAC's sensitive information from disclosure and establish protocols for handling the information within the utility. To access the secure portal of the WaterISAC, users will be provided a smart card and card reader and a special access code.
AMWA has engaged a team led by Westin Engineering Inc. to operate the WaterISAC. It is operated from a government top secret facility by EWA Information and Infrastructure Technologies Inc. (EWA IIT), which will also be providing analytical support.
For further information, visit the AMWA site at www.amwa.net.