Water Sector Coordinating Council Pushes for Recognition of Water Utilities as Critical Lifeline

wastewater-treatment-plant-water-utility-getty(December 4, 2018) - The Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC) met on November 29 to discuss security and other related issues that are impacting the water sector, and also met with the Water Government Coordinating Council (GCC) the following day. 

During both meetings, the main topic of discussion was the status of the water sector during natural disasters and other emergencies.  The National Response Framework provides the guiding principles, roles and responsibilities, and coordinating structures for responding to natural disasters and other emergencies.  Despite the necessity of a safe and functioning water supply for both drinking water and fire suppression, along with the need for appropriate wastewater treatment to protect public health, the water sector does not have its own Emergency Support Function (ESF) Annex, as most other critical infrastructure sectors have.  The WSCC and many of its partners in the GCC believe that disaster responses could be better coordinated for the water sector if it was recognized as a lifeline sector. 

Other discussion topics included the lack of clear guidance on how to deal with large quantities of decontamination wastewater, or contaminated water flushed from drinking water systems.  Recent research into the effects of contaminants in home water supply lines was also presented by EPA.  Further research will need to be conducted to help provide clear guidelines for how to deal with contamination incidents. 

The WSCC is a policy, strategy and coordination mechanism for the US Water and Wastewater Systems Sector in interactions with the government and other sectors on critical infrastructure security and resilience issues. The WSCC coordinates and collaborates with the EPA, the Department of Homeland Security, state primacy administrators and other government agencies primarily through the GCC. 

NACWA’s representatives on the WSCC are Talyon Sortor, Assistant General Manager of the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District, and Karen Pallansch, Chief Executive Officer of Alexandria Renew Enterprises.  Members with questions about the WSCC can contact Cynthia Finley, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.