Drinking Water: Experts' Views on How Future Federal Funding Can Best Be Spent to Improve Security

GAO-04-29 Published: Oct 31, 2003. Publicly Released: Dec 01, 2003.
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After the events of September 11, 2001, Congress appropriated over $100 million to help drinking water systems assess their vulnerabilities to terrorist threats and develop response plans. As the Environmental Protection Agency has suggested, however, significant additional funds may be needed to support the implementation of security upgrades. Therefore, GAO sought experts' views on (1) the key security-related vulnerabilities of drinking water systems; (2) the criteria for determining how federal funds should be allocated among drinking water systems to improve their security, and the methods for distributing those funds; and (3) specific activities the federal government should support to improve drinking water security. GAO conducted a systematic Webbased survey of 43 nationally recognized experts to seek consensus on these key drinking water security issues.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency As EPA refines its efforts to help drinking water utilities reduce their vulnerability to terrorist attacks, the Administrator of the EPA should consider the information in this report to help determine: how best to allocate security-related federal funds among drinking water utilities; which methods should be used to distribute the funds; and what specific security-enhancing activities should be supported.
Closed – Implemented
EPA's Acting Director, Water Security Division, told GAO in January 2004, that the report provided needed support for actions they are now taking to develop tools, training, and technical assistance for water systems. EPA funded a number of activities that enhance physical security and support technological improvements, as well as improve education and training, such as developing the emergency response toolbox, security product guidance, and laboratory compendium, as well as training on emergency response and vulnerability assessments. These specific security-enhancing activities are consistent with those discussed in the GAO report.

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