The criteria used by the committee to frame its review of progress of the Water Security Research and Technical Support Action Plan (Action Plan) and to guide recommendations for a long-term water security research program (see statement of task, Chapter 1) are presented in this chapter. The committee’s organizing assumptions and strategic criteria for future research management decisions, like its evaluations of the Action Plan, were framed from the perspective of the challenges and constraints outlined in Chapter 2.
The committee’s criteria are premised upon several broad findings. First, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Research and Development is working within a limited budget, and water security research cannot replace other essential research to support public health and the needs of water and wastewater utilities. Second, preventing a terrorist attack on the nation’s water infrastructure may be impossible because of the number and diversity of utilities, the multiple points of vulnerability, and the expense of protecting an entire system. Thus, the committee focused its attention on research to prevent or mitigate the consequences of an attack or attempted attack. Third, the information and technical products of the water security research program will be most valuable if they have dual-use benefits. For this report, “dual use” refers to research on technologies that addresses both security and important water utility objectives. Examples include identifying security measures that can mitigate the effects of both physical attacks and earthquake hazards or developing a water quality detection system that can be used to detect generic intrusion events while also providing data on key water quality parameters used to monitor system operations. Dual use can also apply to information technologies (e.g., databases) and their use for natural or accidental contamination events in addition to terrorist threats. In the committee’s usage, dual use was not meant to include work that addresses more than one purpose within homeland security (e.g., measures that safeguard both water and food from a biothreat agent attack).
From the findings described above, the committee identified four criteria to guide its evaluation of the value of the EPA’s water security research projects and to provide a foundation for its recommendations for future research priorities:
Water security threats with the greatest likelihood and potential consequences (including fatalities, sickness, economic losses, and loss of public confidence) are addressed.
Effectiveness and efficiency of the nation’s response and recovery capacity are improved, and/or risk reduction or consequence mitigation measures are developed.
Implementation of new technologies/methodologies is judged to be likely, taking into account their cost, usefulness, and maintenance requirements.
Dual-use benefits accrue from the research.
Dual-use benefits are included among these criteria because they significantly improve the likelihood of implementation of the research products, and there is strong support for research with dual-use applications within the water industry and the public. Research in support of improved mitigation, recovery, and response is often of dual use because it can be applied to address both natural hazards and terrorist events. However, the committee does not view dual use as an absolute requirement for all water security research. These criteria shape the committee’s evaluations and recommendations in Chapters 4 through 6.
These criteria could also be used at a later date to evaluate the effectiveness and success of the program, although such an evaluation was not feasible here based on the number of products available at the time of the committee’s review. In sum, water security risks should be reduced if research products can be shown to address probable threats with significant consequences and if utilities or local, state, and federal response agencies use these products to address security vulnerabilities or to improve the effectiveness of response and recovery.