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Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research (2007)

Chapter:6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions

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Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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6
Recommendations for Future Research Directions

Progress has been made in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) water security research program (see Chapter 4), but many important research questions and technical support needs remain. In Chapter 3, a framework is suggested for evaluating water security research initiatives that gives priority to research that improves response and recovery and/or develops risk reduction or consequence mitigation measures. The research should also produce tools with a reasonable likelihood of implementation and, where feasible, dual-use benefits. Based on this framework and the review of water security efforts already under way, two important water security research gaps are identified and discussed briefly in this chapter. In addition, short- and long-term water security research recommendations are made. The research recommendations are organized in this chapter according to the three long-term program objectives proposed in Chapter 5 emphasizing pre-incident, incident, and post-incident applications: (1) develop products to support more resilient design and operation of facilities and systems, (2) improve the ability of operators and responders to detect and assess incidents, and (3) improve response and recovery. Both drinking water and wastewater research priorities are addressed together within these three objectives to maximize research synergies that may exist.

KEY RESEARCH GAPS

The Water Security Research and Technical Support Action Plan (EPA, 2004a) set out a comprehensive guide for the EPA’s near-term research initiatives. Although the Action Plan was intended to provide a short-term (three- to four- year) research agenda, the previous National Research Council review (NRC, 2004) noted that several of the Action Plan projects represented long-term research questions not easily ad-

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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dressed in the original time frame. Therefore, the Action Plan provides a reasonable starting point for building the EPA’s future research program. Nevertheless, the short-term planning horizon of the Action Plan prevented consideration of two key subjects that are critical to a long-term water security research program: behavioral science and innovative system design. The committee recommends the EPA work in collaboration with other organizations to build research initiatives in these two areas.

Behavioral Science

The threat of bioterrorism presents new and different types of risks that are dynamic and pose difficult trade-offs, bringing about intellectual challenges and an emotional valence possibly more important than the risks themselves. Developing an effective communication strategy that meets the needs of the broad range of stakeholders (e.g., response organizations, water organizations and utilities, public health agencies, the public, the media) while addressing security concerns is clearly a high-priority research area. The EPA’s work on risk communication is focused primarily on the development of guidance, protocols, and training, and little emphasis has been devoted to interdisciplinary behavioral science research to better prepare stakeholders for water security incidents or to build confidence in their ability to respond. Behavioral science research could help address, for example, what the public’s beliefs, opinions, and knowledge about water security risks are; how risk perception and other psychological factors affect responses to water-related events; and how to communicate these risks with the public (Gray and Ropeik, 2002; Means, 2002; Roberson and Morely, 2005b). A better understanding of what short-term disruptions customers are prepared to tolerate may also guide response and recovery planning and the development of recovery technologies.

Previous experience with natural disasters and environmental risks provides a basis for investigating and predicting human behavior in risky situations (Fischoff, 2005). Existing models of human behavior during other kinds of crises, however, may not be adequate to forecast human behavior during bioterrorism or water security incidents (DiGiovanni et al., 2003).

Risk communicators consider empirical findings from psychology, cognitive science, communications, and other behavioral and social sciences to varying extents (Bostrom and Lofstedt, 2003). Although decision makers frequently predict panic and irrational behavior in times of

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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crisis, behavioral science researchers have found that people respond reasonably to such challenges (e.g., Fishoff, 2005). Given the urgency of terror risk communication, risk communicators are obliged to incorporate existing behavioral science research as it relates to water security risks.

The EPA should take advantage of existing behavioral science research that may be applicable to water security issues, but this requires knowledge and experience in behavioral science research. Where gaps exist, the EPA will need to engage in interdisciplinary, rigorous empirical research to obtain the necessary knowledge.

Innovative Designs for Secure and Resilient Water and Wastewater Systems

Innovative designs for water and wastewater infrastructure were not addressed in the EPA Action Plan, but the topic deserves a place in a long-term water security research program. The EPA’s research mission has traditionally included the development and testing of new concepts, technologies, and management structures for water and wastewater utilities to achieve practical objectives in public health, sustainability and cost-effectiveness. The addition of homeland security to its mission provides a unique opportunity to take a holistic view of current design and management of water and wastewater infrastructures. Innovation is needed to address the problem of aging infrastructures while making new water systems more resilient to natural hazards and malicious incidents. The EPA should, therefore, take a leadership role in providing guidance for the planning, design, and implementation of new, more sustainable and resilient water and wastewater facilities for the 21st century.

Disagreggation of large water and wastewater systems should be an overarching theme of innovation. Large and complex systems have developed in the United States following the pattern of urban and suburban sprawl. While there are clear economies of scale for large utilities in construction and system management, there are distinct disadvantages as well. The complexity of large systems makes security measures difficult to implement and complicates the response to an attack. For example, locating the source of incursion within the distribution system and isolating contaminated sections are more difficult in large and complex water systems. Long water residence times are also more likely to occur in large drinking water systems, and, as a result, disinfectant residual may be lacking in the extremities of the system because of the chemical and biological reactions that occur during transport. From a security perspec-

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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tive, inadequate disinfectant residual means less protection against intentional contamination by a microbial agent.

A breadth of possibilities exists for improving security through innovative infrastructure design. Satellite water treatment plants could boost water quality. Strategic placement of treatment devices (e.g., ultraviolet lamp arrays) within the distribution system could counter a bioterrorism attack. Wastewater treatment systems could be interconnected to provide more flexibility in case of attack, and diversion devices could be installed to isolate contaminants. Box 6-1 describes some of these concepts in greater detail, and specific research recommendations are suggested in the following section.

RESEARCH RECOMMENDATIONS: DEVELOP PRODUCTS TO SUPPORT MORE RESILIENT DESIGN AND OPERATION OF FACILITIES AND SYSTEMS

Specific research topics are suggested here in two areas to support development of more resilient water and wastewater systems: (1) innovative designs for water and wastewater and (2) improved methods for risk assessment, including processes for threat and consequence assessments.

Innovative Designs for Water and Wastewater Systems

Innovative changes to water infrastructure will require long-term investment in research. Existing systems have been in place for more than a century in older cities. Thus, bold new directions will understandably require intensive research at the outset to produce a defensible economic argument for change. On the other hand, the EPA has the opportunity to develop innovative approaches that can be implemented almost immediately in relatively new, as well as planned, urban and suburban areas. The first step in research would be to enumerate the opportunities for innovation, recognizing the constraints brought about by the size, age, and complexity of existing water and wastewater infrastructures. A broad-gauge, economic analysis should follow that would quantify the costs and multiple benefits of these innovative designs (e.g., increased security, improved drinking water quality, enhanced sustainability of water resources). In addition, there is an implicit need for EPA research-

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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BOX 6-1

Envisioning New Water and Wastewater Infrastructures

Three infrastructure concepts illustrate potential innovative approaches for improving the security and resilience of water and wastewater systems: (1) distribution and collection system interventions, (2) the use of distributed networks, and (3) the implementation of dual piping systems. Water distribution system interventions could include multiple points of treatment within the distribution system (e.g., UV disinfection, chemical addition) or effective inline monitoring and localized diversion, using multiple valves and interconnections for routing contaminated water out of the distribution system network. In wastewater collections systems, new designs might include realtime monitoring, interventions to isolate portions of the collection system should toxic or explosive constituents be detected (e.g., sensor-activated inflatable dams), and interconnections or online storage capacity for diversion, containment, and treatment.

The “distributed optimal technology network” (DOT-Net) concept (Weber, 2002; 2004) includes a holistic approach to decentralization of both water and wastewater treatment. The premise is that advanced water treatment would be installed most economically at the scale of households, apartment complexes, or neighborhoods using POU/POE technology. These devices offer protection against chemical and biological agents that escape conventional water treatment as well as agents that may be added to the distribution system subsequent to treatment. An almost infinite number of infrastructure variations involving water and wastewater are possible, even including the localized processing of wastewater for energy recovery.

An alternative concept of a dual water distribution system has been proposed to address water quality concerns in aging infrastructures while meeting demand for fire protection (Okun, 1997). Additional benefits could be gained by incorporating satellite and decentralized wastewater treatment facilities. In this concept, the existing water distribution system and storage tanks would be used for delivery of reclaimed water and for fire demand, and a new water distribution system would deliver potable water through much smaller diameter pipes (Snyder et al., 2002). The dual distribution system concept offers several security advantages. For example, fire protection would not depend upon the integrity of the potable water supply in the event of a terrorist attack. The installation of small diameter stainless steel pipes would reduce residence time in the system (and related water quality degradation) and also speed the recovery process from a chemical or biological attack. However, a dual distribution system might also make a contamination attack on the drinking water supply easier because less contaminant mass would be needed to produce a toxic effect.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

ers to coordinate with the agency’s regulatory branch to validate the feasibility of the innovative concepts that are proposed.

Each of the infrastructure concepts illustrated in Box 6-1 require far more research to become feasible. The recommendations below outline specific research topics that, if addressed, could improve the safety and sustainability of water resources in the 21st century.

Disaggregation of Water and Wastewater Systems

The “distributed optimal technology network” (DOT-Net) concept (Norton and Weber, 2005; Weber, 2002; 2004) hinges upon the feasibility of distributed treatment via point-of-use (POU)/point-of-entry (POE) devices installed at the scale of individual buildings or perhaps small neighborhoods. The corollary premise is that installation of expensive advanced treatment technology at the centralized water treatment facility is unnecessary when only a fraction of the service area outside a “critical radius” requires additional protection. Only a broad economic analysis of this concept has been published thus far for a hypothetical urban center, but the assumptions need to be verified for actual systems, particularly because of the unique characteristics of individual cities. In addition, far more research is needed on the utility management required to ensure the reliability of POU/POE devices in widespread implementation.

Dual water systems have also been proposed to address aging infrastructure (see Box 6-1; Okun, 1997; 2005). As with the DOT-Net concept, long-term research is needed to determine the costs and benefits of constructing an entirely new paradigm for distribution system design. Research issues would include assessing the acceptability of reclaimed water for progressively more intense levels of nonpotable use (e.g., irrigation, toilet flushing, laundering), the acceptability and management demands of decentralized wastewater treatment facilities, and the net benefits to water security.

In-Pipe Interventions to Reduce Exposure

In-pipe engineering interventions (see Box 6-1) are deserving of research in a long-term water security research strategy. For example, research is needed to optimize the location of disinfection booster stations or to examine the effectiveness and feasibility of in situ ultraviolet (UV)

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

irradiation systems as a decontamination strategy. EPA research could also examine various pipe materials (e.g., stainless steel) and evaluate their benefits for security and sustainability relative to their costs.

Infrastructure Designs to Enable Isolation and Interconnection

Most large drinking water systems have the ability to isolate portions of their distribution systems during necessary system repairs, but security concerns provide a new impetus for rapid and effective isolation mechanisms. Research on innovative mechanisms to isolate or divert contaminated water in drinking water and wastewater systems would be useful. The EPA should identify these design options, research their costs and benefits (including dual-use benefits) and their feasibility both for existing systems and new infrastructure, and make this information available to system managers.

Improved Risk Assessments Procedures

A sound risk assessment process allows utilities to make better resource management decisions for enhancing their recovery capacity or security strategies to mitigate the consequences of an attack. The risk assessment process includes assessments of threat, consequences, and vulnerability. To date, most of the efforts to guide utilities in their own risk assessments have focused on vulnerabilities.

Threat Assessment

Water and wastewater utilities today are making resource management decisions related to security without adequate information about the nature and likelihood of threats to their systems. As discussed in Chapter 4, the EPA has focused their efforts on identifying contaminant threats without conducting similarly detailed analyses of possible physical and cyber threats. Both the nature and likelihood of these threats are needed for efficient allocation of resources at the utility level and within the EPA’s research program. Improved threat assessment would require the EPA and/or a consortium of water experts to work closely with the intelligence community and local law enforcement agencies. Other national and federal laboratory expertise within the Department of Energy,

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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Department of Defense, and private-public community might be needed as well. Threat assessments for water and wastewater should be periodically reviewed to identify threat scenarios that should be added to the list and to remove those that are no longer a concern. The development of a threat assessment process for local water and wastewater utilities with current techniques used in other infrastructures would also be helpful, provided the threat information could be communicated to those who need it (ASME, 2004; Sandia National Laboratories, 2001).

Consequence Assessment

A consequence assessment should accompany the threat assessment within the risk assessment process. Consequence assessments would provide decision makers with information on the potential for fatalities, public health impacts, economic impacts, property damage, systems disruption, effects on other infrastructures, and loss of public confidence. Procedures for determining the expected consequences from an attack or natural disaster are not currently being systematically developed. As a result, water system managers do not have sufficient data to make decisions about the benefits of risk reduction relative to the costs. The development and application of a consequence assessment procedure would provide decision makers with information needed to decide whether to mitigate the consequences, upgrade with countermeasures, take steps to improve response and recovery capacity, and/or decide to accept the level of risk and take no further action. A fault tree analysis that includes, for example, options for redundant systems or contingency water supplies could provide vital information on whether to invest in security upgrades or less costly consequence mitigation strategies. Many of these approaches have already been developed for other infrastructures (e.g., Risk Assessment Methodology [RAM]-T for the high-voltage power transmission industry or RAM-D for dams, locks, and levees; see Sandia National Laboratories, 2001; 2002). A thorough review of other RAM methodologies could provide guidance for consequence assessment strategies that could be incorporated into the Risk Assessment Methodology for Water Utilities (RAM-W).

The EPA has worked to develop the AT Planner tool to assist utilities in assessing the consequences from physical attacks (see Chapter 4). While AT Planner has been validated against actual blast test data for nonwater systems, there remains significant uncertainty in the applicability of the modeling for water security because it has not been validated

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

against the structures specific to those systems. Therefore, the ongoing evaluation of AT Planner by the EPA and select water utility operators should include an assessment of the applicability of AT Planner for each of the critical and high-consequence components of a water system. The EPA and water utilities should then consider whether any additional validation testing is needed to determine specific failure modes of relevant water system components (e.g., actual storage tanks, pumps, water conduits, chlorine tanks) and possible countermeasures.

Summary of Research Priorities for Secure and Resilient Systems

Short-Term Priorities
  • Develop an improved understanding of physical, cyber, and contaminant threats to water and wastewater systems, especially focusing on physical and cyber threats.

  • Communicate information on threats and consequences to water system managers through training and information exchange.

  • Develop an improved threat assessment procedure for water and wastewater utilities that will assist local utilities with their security and response planning.

  • Develop a process to assist local utilities in determining the consequences from physical, cyber, and contaminant attacks.

  • Update the risk assessment methodology for water systems to incorporate the latest approaches used in other industries, including developing credible threat descriptions and identifying cascading consequences.

Long-Term Priorities
  • Develop innovative design strategies for drinking water and wastewater systems that mitigate security risks and identify their costs and benefits in the context of public health, sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and homeland security. These designs might include:

    • In-pipe intervention strategies for drinking water systems,

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×
  • Disaggregation of water and wastewater treatment facilities to achieve dual-use benefits, and

  • Designs that allow for interconnections and isolation.

  • Evaluate the need to validate AT Planner against structures specific to water systems.

  • Periodically review the EPA’s prioritized list of threats, contaminants, and threat scenarios to identify items that should be added to the list and remove items that are no longer a concern.

  • Continue development of technology transfer/training programs so that utilities understand the value of the EPA’s products for both homeland security incidents and natural disasters and know how to utilize the tools to their full extent.

Implementation of Priorities

Some of the research recommendations to support more resilient design and operation of drinking water and wastewater systems lie outside of the EPA’s traditional areas of expertise. To support the Action Plan efforts so far, the EPA has relied heavily on expert contractors to conduct this type of work. The EPA should continue to seek the relevant expertise of other federal agencies and national laboratories in these future efforts. However, the EPA will need to consider how best to balance intramural and extramural research funding to carry out this research, while maintaining appropriate oversight and input into the research activities (see also Chapter 5). Increasing staff expertise in some key areas, such as physical security, will be necessary to build a strong and well-rounded water security research program to support more resilient system design and operation.

RESEARCH RECOMMENDATIONS: IMPROVE THE ABILITY OF OPERATORS AND RESPONDERS TO DETECT AND ASSESS INCIDENTS

Suggestions are provided in this section for future research that should improve the ability of operators and responders to detect and assess water security incidents. Specific research suggestions in the areas of analytical methodologies and monitoring and distribution system modeling are discussed below.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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Analytical Methodologies and Monitoring

Expanding Existing Analytical Methods

For some analytes of relevance to water security concerns, the available or approved detection methods are poor (e.g., some nonregulated analytes). More work needs to be done to expand existing methods to a broader range of analytes. For example, method 300.1 (EPA, 2000) covers only the common anions but could be extended to others, including toxic substances. The extension of existing methods to new analytes would allow a broader range of laboratories to expand their capabilities into the water security area.

Screening methods using conventional gas chromatography (GC) or high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) should also be investigated. Modern high-resolution chromatography combined with high-sensitivity detection (e.g., electron capture, fluorescence) is a powerful, yet accessible tool. Protocols should be developed to make the best use of these widely available capabilities. Software will have to be developed to facilitate the documentation of normal, background signals (fingerprint-type chromatograms). This background information can then be used to detect anomalies. Final protocols would have to be tested thoroughly against priority chemical contaminants. Chromatographic finger-prints have been used to monitor water supplies for nonintentional contamination, so this line of research would provide a dual benefit (D. Metz, Ohio River, personal communication, 2006; P. Schulhof, Seine River, personal communication, 2006).

Progress is being made with the protocol to concentrate samples and identify biological contaminants by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. Continued research, however, needs to be directed towards reducing the time and effort required to collect, process, and identify samples by automating portions of the protocol such as the concentration step. Such automated collection and sample processing systems would be especially valuable in response to security threats, when water samples could be channeled to existing or new detection technologies capable of onsite processing. The EPA should continue to expand the number of biothreat agents tested with the concentration/PCR protocol to include microbes other than spores, prioritizing test organisms that are both a threat to public health and resistant to chlorine (Morales-Morales, et al., 2003; Straub and Chandler, 2003). Continued testing of the concentration/PCR protocol should include various mixed suspensions of a target

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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microbe and background microbes to determine specificity of detection and various dilutions of the target microbe to determine sensitivity of detection. The protocol should also be tested on chloraminated water samples.

Developing New Monitoring Technologies

Chemical Detection. New chemical monitoring technologies for security-relevant analytes should be investigated. Examples include quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) sensors, microfluidic devices (lab-on-a-chip), ion-sensitive field-effect transistors (ISFETs), and larger-scale optrodes. Extramural agency and corporate partnerships developed by the EPA and longer-term research projects will help the evaluation and consideration of a broader range of detection platforms.


Biological Detection. Biological monitoring devices are essential to assess the type and extent of contamination in a suspected water security event. A broader range of innovative and developing detection technologies for biological agents, including methods that are field deployable and reagent-free, should be considered and evaluated. Innovative, field-deployable detection technologies (e.g., genetic fingerprinting, immunodetection, other technologies in development by universities, the Department of Defense, and industry) could reduce the time and effort for detection and enable earlier response efforts (Iqbal et al., 2000; Ivnitski et al., 2003; Lim et al., 2005; Monk and Walt, 2004; Yu and Bruno, 1996; Zhu et al., 2004). These new technologies might also increase the accuracy of detecting deliberate contamination events and reduce false alarms. Methods that can detect multiple biological agents and those with dual-use benefits should be emphasized over those methods limited to very specific agents (Peruski and Peruski, 2003; Rogers and Mulchandani, 1998). For example, DNA fingerprinting might be more useful than immunodetection systems dependent on a highly specific antibody for operation. The accuracy of these detection methods will depend on availability of quality reagents such as antibodies and primers; therefore, researchers will need to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies that have access to such reagents.


Monitoring Devices for Wastewater Collection Systems. Contamination incidents have the potential to disrupt wastewater biological treat-

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

ment systems; thus, a long-term research program should also include research on monitoring technologies relevant to wastewater security concerns. Although a number of devices are available that can be used to monitor physical, chemical, and biological parameters, none of the currently available devices are robust or reliable enough when used in untreated wastewater to meet security requirements. The EPA should, therefore, encourage development of robust or reliable monitoring devices for wastewater infrastructure.

Syndromic Surveillance Tools. Syndromic surveillance tools may have the potential for detecting disease outbreaks and for investigating the possible role of water in such outbreaks (Berger et al., 2006). The EPA is already working to test two syndromic disease surveillance tools (RODS, ESSENCE) against prior water contamination outbreak data. There are substantive research needs that should be undertaken, however. Clearly, the improvement of existing syndromic surveillance tools is a long-term research objective. For syndromic surveillance to become worthwhile, it should achieve a favorable cost-benefit ratio considering the costs of false positives, and syndromic surveillance should also be adequately integrated into response plans. The implementation of syndromic surveillance systems on a large scale would require a more detailed linkage between disparate databases used in the public health sector and the water supply sector. Research to develop tools to allow local systems to readily fuse information from these disparate sources would be desirable. Such linkages would improve detection and response to waterborne disease outbreaks and more rapidly exclude water as a possible vehicle of disease. This would have important applications for both intentional and nonintentional water contamination events.

Real-Time Monitoring Systems

The development of a fully functional, easy-to-maintain, real-time monitoring system (RTMS) that could someday be used to prevent harm from deliberate attacks on the water system (“detect to prevent”), even with substantial research investments, is many years away. Therefore, the primary emphasis of future research on RTMSs, at least in the near term, should be on developing these technologies to assess the spread of contaminants, not to prevent exposure.

The committee also questions the likelihood of implementation of real-time monitoring devices for specific chemical or biological parame-

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

ters that are not useful in the day-to-day operation of a system (see Chapters 2 and 4). However, there are a few scenarios where implementation of continuous monitors for biological contaminants might be valuable, such as their use in certain water systems under heightened threat conditions (e.g., utilities for which specific intelligence information indicates they may be targeted). As discussed in Chapter 4, deployment under these circumstances has a greater likelihood for success because the probability of an event is estimated to be much higher and the length of monitoring time is shortened. The use of highly sensitive and specific detection devices under such targeted circumstances would significantly lower the probability of false alarms and reduce the problem of poor positive predictive value (see Chapter 2) while also minimizing implementation and maintenance costs. Thus, improving monitoring systems for specific chemical or biological agents in drinking water is a valid long-term research goal. The EPA may find that longer-term research on more speculative sensor development could benefit from a further broadening of the circle of collaborators. Such speculative research may be more appropriately funded through the National Science Foundation or the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, thus freeing up EPA resources for other purposes. To encourage such research, the EPA may wish to build its connections with the private sector on this technology.

Research on detection methods for RTMSs should proceed with careful consideration of the likelihood of implementation of the monitoring devices. In its near-term research plans, the EPA should adopt a first-stage approach to RTMSs, emphasizing generic sensors to detect intrusion or a system anomaly. The intrusion detection would then trigger more resource-intensive follow-up monitoring and analysis. Such an approach has significant dual-use benefits for routine contamination events that could outweigh the costs of implementing and operating these systems. Additional effort to develop cheaper, more accurate, and more easily deployable and maintainable sensors for routine water quality parameters would be useful both for anomaly detection and routine operation. Additional research is also needed, even in first-stage RTMSs, to understand normal water quality variations and distinguish variations that might be caused by a deliberate contamination attack. For example, continuous monitoring of chlorine residual at multiple points in the distribution system often reveals wide variations at different temporal scales due to changes in water demand that affect water residence time (e.g., operation of storage tanks). Although some work to understand inherent water quality variability in distribution systems is being conducted through the

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

Water Sentinel program, a significant amount of work is needed to translate the findings of this research into criteria for RTMSs to develop systems that have a reasonable likelihood of implementation.

An important component of RTMS research should include data fusion, whereby multiple anomalies must occur before an alarm signal is sent (see also Chapter 4). The private sector seems to be taking the lead on many types of multiparameter approaches to RTMSs and the processing of data, especially as described by contaminant or event signatures. It is important that the algorithms are open to peer review and can be accessed by all for development of new and refined approaches.

RTMS sensor research should consider a broader range of technologies, including full-spectrum UV and visible absorption, fluorescence excitation emission matrices, and ionization sensors (Alupoaei et al., 2004; Fenselau and Demirev, 2001; Lay, 2001). Many of these techniques are used as nonspecific chromatography detectors, and as such, they are highly sensitive. Most prototype RTMSs are composed of existing sensors that are designed to measure a specific contaminant, and some technologies have been excluded because they have not led to sensors with a high degree of selectivity. However, RTMSs need not be contaminant-specific; they only need to detect anomalies. Detection of an anomaly can then be followed by more specific contaminant analyses.

The problem of false positive signals from real-time contaminant-specific warning systems has been discussed in Chapter 2. In essence, the problem is one of unfavorable arithmetic when the probability of a true positive is very small, as it would be for an intentional contamination attack on any particular water system of the tens of thousands of such systems. Therefore, most contaminant-specific alarm signals will be false positives. The EPA should consider the consequences of various rates of false positive signals for both large and small utilities and collect information on how alarms are currently handled by utilities. Workshops and structured surveys on this issue would provide valuable information on current practices, the extent to which positive signals are confirmed, the costs of false alarms, and the views of utility operators on their tolerance for various levels and types of false alarms. This research would provide useful guidance for the developers of water quality monitoring devices, for utilities that are considering implementing devices that are commercially available, and for local and state regulatory agencies who will need assistance interpreting alarm signals in light of the public health consequences.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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Technology Testing

The EPA has developed a rigorous technology testing program to provide security product guidance to end users focusing on monitoring and decontamination technology. However, as noted in Chapter 4, the number of relevant security technologies and agents of interest exceed the capacity and budget of the Technology Testing and Evaluation Program (TTEP). Therefore, developing a test-prioritization plan for TTEP seems especially important and is strongly recommended. Although the process of identifying technologies of interest has begun through the use of stakeholder meetings and advisory boards, activities to date have been weighted toward doing the easiest things first, and only some of these tests provided dual-use benefits. Balancing the homeland security benefits and the benefits to routine water system operations in TTEP will likely require additional strategic planning. One strategy has been to test equipment that is commercially available regardless of whether it addresses a high-risk agent. Instead, the EPA should look beyond the easy-to-identify commercially available equipment and make a greater effort to identify technologies in development that have the potential to address those agents identified as posing the greatest risk to water, considering the likelihood of the threat (including the ease of acquiring particular chemical or biological agents), the potential consequences, and the likelihood of implementing the technology. For a few of the highest-priority threats, the EPA may wish to consider providing technical support and/or funding to encourage more rapid development of a particularly promising technology that has a high likelihood of implementation and significant dual-use benefits, similar to the EPA Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE) Emerging Technology Program.

Develop Laboratory Capability and Capacity

Adequate laboratory capacity is critical for responding to a terrorist incident affecting water supplies, and although this is not a research issue, the EPA has much to contribute from an applied perspective. The need for mobile analysis units capable of supplementing local laboratories and rapidly responding to geographical areas impacted by terrorist events should be considered. Such mobile laboratories could also address analytical needs that arise during natural catastrophes, such as Hurricane Katrina. Many states have begun to develop mobile laboratory

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

capabilities as part of their water security activities, and the EPA could glean information on their experiences to date.

The EPA is working with utilities and state and federal agencies to build a national laboratory response network for water sample analysis (i.e., the Water Laboratory Alliance). Some university laboratories may have capabilities that could merit inclusion in the nationwide network. Other laboratories may be stimulated to conduct additional research on improved analytical methods for toxic and biothreat agents if they were better informed of the current state of knowledge and had access to reference standards (access to some reference standards is currently limited due to security concerns). To be successful, a dual-use philosophy should be adopted whenever possible in the development of laboratory capacity (e.g., employing methods/instruments that can also be used for standard analytes).

Distribution System Modeling Tools

Distribution system models provide valuable tools for locating the source of contamination or assessing the spread if the source is known, estimating exposure, identifying locations for sampling, and developing decontamination strategies (see also Chapter 4). Distribution system models also have important dual-use applications to routine water quality concerns, and the EPA should continue to emphasize the dual-use value of its modeling tools. Specific recommendations are provided below to advance the capabilities and implementation of the Threat Ensemble Vulnerability Assessment (TEVA) and EPANET models.

Experimental Verification of Species Interaction Subcomponent Models

The final goal of producing a more flexible EPANET model through Multi-Species EPANET (MS-EPANET) is commendable. However, the new subcomponents are based upon developing better fundamental knowledge of reactions within the distribution system involving chemistry (e.g., disinfection kinetics, chemical partitioning), biology (e.g., development of biofilms, release and attachment of microbes), and materials science (e.g., corrosion of pipe materials and its relationship to disinfection efficacy). The large number of system constants in both MS-EPANET and TEVA necessitate significant investment in sensitivity

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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analysis research to quantify the accuracy of model predictions. The development and testing of all new features of MS-EPANET should be a long-term research goal. Until the validity of these subcomponents is verified and system constants can be assigned with more certainty, the water industry will be reluctant to use the full capability of MS-EPANET. Limitations in the accuracy of model predictions will need to be addressed in guidance to decision makers. A significant commitment will be needed in resources for experimental verification.

Alternate Approaches to Uncertainty Modeling

The Action Plan acknowledges correctly that the distribution system model simulations should incorporate an analysis of uncertainty because the point of attack is unknown. This has led to the use of the well-known Monte Carlo analysis to randomize the location of the attack and run repeated distribution system model simulations (1,000 or more) to generate a probability distribution to relate point of attack to human exposure impact. The focus on short-term results, however, has produced weaknesses in the current EPA approach to uncertainty research.

A broader discussion about how to incorporate uncertainty into the TEVA model should be invited. Approaches such as fuzzy logic (McKone and Deshpande, 2005) and Bayesian Maximum Entropy modeling (Serre and Christakos, 1999) are showing promise but have been applied mainly to homogenous space rather than to network domains. The EPA should encourage alternative ideas for handling uncertainty. If the expertise is not available within the agency, there needs to be a mechanism to expand extramural support for research, particularly within the university community.

Technology Transfer and Training in Use of the TEVA and EPANET Models

Advances in the TEVA model add significant complexity to the EPANET model, which may limit its widespread implementation. The EPA should work to communicate the capabilities of EPANET, MS-EPANET, and TEVA to utilities, emphasizing their value for routine water quality concerns, advanced homeland security planning, and contamination assessment and response activities. Until TEVA and MS-EPANET are further developed and widely available, the EPA should

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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consider an interim strategy to better inform water utilities on the value and use of existing distribution system models, such as EPANET. Progressive water utilities are already using EPANET to examine possible locations of attack and to track the concentration of contaminants within the distribution system.

Training in the use of MS-EPANET and the proposed TEVA model is also needed. Water utility managers need to be convinced that the costs for adapting a new model for their respective distribution systems are worthwhile, because many utilities have already invested heavily in development, verification, and calibration of existing models. The complexity of the TEVA model may increase these costs further, because many more implementation steps follow those for EPANET to adapt the TEVA “template” to the specifics of each water utility.

Summary of Research Priorities for Better Equipping Operators to Detect and Assess Incidents

Short-Term Priorities
Analytical Methodologies and Monitoring
  • Automate the concentration step of the concentration/PCR protocol.

  • Continue to test the concentration/PCR protocol:

    • Expand the number of biothreat agents tested to four or five organisms that include microbes other than spores, focusing on microbes that are both a threat to public health and resistant to chlorine.

    • Test the concentration/PCR protocol with chloraminated water samples.

    • Test the concentration/PCR protocol to determine sensitivity and specificity of detection.

  • Field-test RTMSs to determine false positive/false negative rates and maintenance requirements and develop basic criteria for the technology that might lead to a reasonable likelihood of implementation.

  • Continue research to develop a first-stage RTMS based on routine water quality sensors with dual-use applications.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×
  • Analyze the consequences of false positive signals from realtime monitoring systems, emphasizing current practices, the extent to which positive signals are confirmed, the costs of false alarms, and the tolerance of utility operators for false alarms.

  • Test standard chromatographic methods for their ability to screen for a broad range of toxic agents in routine laboratory testing.

  • Develop a test-prioritization strategy for TTEP to optimize the resources devoted to this effort.

Distribution System Modeling Tools
  • Invite external peer review of the TEVA model before investing in field testing.

Long-term Priorities
Analytical Methodologies and Monitoring
  • Continue to develop portable, field-deployable systems that can be used to collect and process samples at event locations.

  • Formulate protocols and develop software for using GC- and HPLC-based fingerprinting to detect suspicious anomalies.

  • Stimulate research and ultimately development of new sensors for water security analytes based on innovative technologies, such as QCM, ISFETS, and microfluidics.

  • Evaluate and develop new field-deployable detection technologies for biological agents, including genetic fingerprinting, immunodetection, and reagentless technologies, that have the necessary sensitivity, specificity, and multiplex capabilities.

  • Develop improved, cheaper, and accurate RTMSs for routine water quality measurements.

  • Examine the use of nonspecific detection technologies for RTMSs.

  • Develop data fusion approaches for RTMSs that can minimize false positives.

  • Develop and test new monitoring technologies suitable for wastewater security applications.

  • Improve syndromic surveillance tools and develop a health surveillance network with appropriate linkages to water quality monitoring.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×
  • Continue to develop and refine the efficiency of a system-wide laboratory response network, including the development of mobile analysis units.

Distribution System Modeling Tools
  • Continue fundamental research to understand the chemical and biological reactions that affect the fate and transport of contaminants in distribution systems to verify the constants used in MS-EPANET and TEVA.

  • Include alternative approaches to uncertainty design (e.g., fuzzy logic, Bayesian Maximum Entropy) in the TEVA model that are based more strongly upon stochastic than deterministic principles given that many of the input parameters to the current TEVA model are highly uncertain.

  • Develop projects for training water utilities in the value and use of EPANET, MS-EPANET, and TEVA.

Implementation of Priorities

Some of these research priorities may be more appropriately accomplished by universities, companies, or other agencies that have the necessary expertise, resources, and funding to successfully complete these tasks. The development of multiplex detection protocols and portable, field-deployable platforms are examples of tasks that might be better managed by some group other than the EPA. Work to determine the sensitivity and specificity of designated protocols for different biothreat agents could be conducted by university laboratories or private industry, with collaborative input from the EPA, considering their understanding of the needs of the water sector. Utilization of research resources outside the EPA would expand the variety of emerging, innovative analytical technologies that might be used to support the EPA’s efforts in enhancing the nation’s water security.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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RESEARCH RECOMMENDATIONS: IMPROVED RESPONSE AND RECOVERY

Recommendations are provided in this section for future research that should improve response and recovery after a water security incident. Research suggestions related to tools and data for emergency planning and response, contingencies, risk communication and behavioral sciences, decontamination, and lessons learned from natural disasters are presented below.

Tools and Data for Emergency Planning and Response

Continued Development of Emergency Response Databases

The EPA released preliminary versions of the Water Contamination Information Tool (WCIT) and the Consequence Assessment Tool (CAT) to provide data on contaminant properties, toxicity, and exposure threats (see Chapter 4), but the databases are still in their infancy, and numerous data gaps exist. The EPA will need to prioritize its continued efforts to further develop these response databases. Therefore, the EPA should develop strategic plans for WCIT and CAT, outlining the long-term goals for the databases and addressing questions such as:

  • What stakeholders will be served by the databases?

  • What categories of information do these stakeholders need?

  • How many contaminants should be included?

  • What linkages to other databases should be established?

The EPA will need to determine criteria for prioritizing what contaminants are added to the database and how to maintain and update the information. If WCIT and CAT are not continually revised to incorporate the latest scientific knowledge, the databases will become outdated. Expanding or even maintaining a database requires considerable resources, both intellectual and financial. If a commitment is not made initially for the necessary resources to update and maintain a database, spending the resources to create it becomes debatable. The EPA is currently facing similar issues maintaining its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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The EPA should also clearly define the data quality objectives for WCIT/CAT and incorporate peer review of the data, as necessary, to meet these objectives. For example, the EPA may decide that some information about a contaminant is better than none, even if that information has limitations. This is a legitimate approach; however, the EPA should provide a mechanism that helps to ensure that individuals using the databases understand the data quality and their limitations. One mechanism for accomplishing this would be to add quality notations for each datum. Regardless of the approach taken, the EPA needs to describe the extent to which the data have been reviewed.

Evaluation and Improvement of Tools and Databases

With the forthcoming completion of at least the first stages of many tools and databases (e.g., WCIT, CAT), the EPA should consider the evaluation/improvement cycle. This will require the development of procedures to evaluate the utility and usability of these tools by potential constituencies. In addition, the EPA should take advantage of the tests afforded in response to “real-life” incidents. For example, some of the tools and databases were used (albeit in an early stage of their development) in the response to Hurricane Katrina. A formal assessment of knowledge gained from this experience could assist in the improvement and development of the tools.

Filling Data Gaps

The state of knowledge of the health risks from water contaminants that could be used in a malicious event is quite limited, as shown by the limited number of chemicals and even fewer biologicals in the WCIT/CAT databases and the many blank data fields in these databases. Important experimental and computational research is under way at the EPA to address some of these data gaps (see Chapter 4, Section 3.6), but many gaps remain. There are two applications of toxicity/infectivity information that would be useful to the EPA for response and recovery efforts. The first is development of guidance for dissolved concentrations that would pose an immediate acute risk to exposed individuals, analogous to the inhalation immediate danger to life and health values of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The EPA is currently working on this problem by developing a database on acute and

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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chronic health effects associated with priority contaminants, although much work remains to be done. The second is guidance for determining the appropriate “acceptable” level remaining after cleanup/decontamination. This second aspect has not yet been strongly emphasized in the EPA research program. It is recommended that the EPA convene a working group to develop research and prioritization strategies for filling these data gaps and for ascertaining current gaps in knowledge with respect to rapid estimation of toxicity/infectivity in the absence of specific experimental information. Decisions for setting priorities for the data gathering efforts should be made with full consideration of dual-use benefits.

Contingencies for Water System Emergencies

Further study of water supply alternatives should be a high priority, considering their pivotal role in response and recovery and their dual-use applications for natural disasters or system failures. However, the subject of water supply contingencies seems to have been given a low priority in the EPA’s research program to date. Completion of the work in progress should be the first priority. The committee debated the value of investing significant resources in developing technologies that could supply drinking water for large communities over long-term disruptions because of the rarity of the need for such technologies. Nevertheless, the EPA should draw upon the research and development efforts of the Department of Defense in this area and work to test the application of these technologies to water security scenarios.

The EPA should consider including new research on contingencies for failures of the human subsystem in water system security. Such research could examine current practices for identifying back-up operators in the case of widespread incapacitation in both short-term and long-term scenarios. This research could also identify best practices, which could be incorporated into EPA guidance to water utilities for their emergency response planning.

Preliminary research suggests that geographic information systems (GIS) could be of significant value to utilities for identifying contingencies in the event of system failures. Therefore, further efforts may be needed to inform utilities about the value of GIS for emergency response and provide guidance for integrating GIS into their emergency planning procedures. National geodata standards may be needed to promote consistency and facilitate data exchange among users.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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Behavioral Sciences and Risk Communication

The National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC) has made substantial progress in the development of risk communication guidance and training (see Chapter 4), but very little emphasis has been devoted to research on understanding how the public may respond to risk communication messages and how to improve communication of risks to the public. Terrorism presents risks that are new, evolving, and difficult to characterize; thus, water security poses communication challenges that should be addressed using scientifically rigorous research in the fields of risk communication and behavioral sciences. The EPA should continually reassess the role risk communication has in its overall risk management framework and fully integrate risk communication efforts into the overall risk management program. Behavioral science and associated risk communication research should be a high priority in the EPA’s future water security research plans. The following recommendations are targeted toward water-security events, but the proposed research has dual benefits for improving non-security-related communications with the public.

Analysis of Factors that Build Trust and Improve Communication

Research and experience prove that one of the most important keys to communication success is an organization’s ability to establish, maintain, and increase trust and credibility with key stakeholders, including employees, regulatory agencies, citizen groups, the public, and the media. To improve overall communication strategies in a water-related emergency, research is needed that analyzes factors that build trust and reduce fear (e.g., What types of concerns do people have related to public health emergencies, water security issues, or bioterrorism? How do utilities build trust and credibility with the public around water security incidents?). In addition, research is needed to analyze methods to counter and reduce the possibility of misinformation or false information being distributed to the public and key stakeholders.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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Understanding Institutional Behavior

Building response and recovery capacity requires agencies that might be involved in a water security event to develop stronger working relationships. Although water utilities, public health agencies, law enforcement, emergency responders, and the media do not have a long history of collaborating and working together, several state drinking water programs have taken the lead in carrying out tabletop exercises as well as on-the-ground exercises to address this issue. These state programs have also undertaken measures to facilitate an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the various potential players, including federal, state, and local law enforcement; state and local health agencies; state and local emergency response agencies; and water utilities. The EPA could glean useful information from these ongoing state and local activities. Nevertheless, additional research is needed to better understand the culture of the agencies that will be responding to events, how these agencies will interact in a water-related crisis, and what level of effort is needed to maintain collaboration in planning and preparedness. This research could identify barriers to more effective collaboration, and these findings could be used to create training scenarios that could improve coordination and resolve potential conflicts in advance. This research is a short-term priority given the importance of coordinated interaction during a crisis. The research could be performed relatively quickly because there is a wealth of experiences, particularly at the state level, related to agency interactions in water-related crises.

Investigate Applicability of Research in Behavioral Science

While some of the recommended research on risk communication and behavioral science may need to be managed by the EPA to address specific water security-related issues, the EPA should also take advantage of other behavioral science research currently being conducted through university-based partnerships, including those established by the Homeland Security Centers of Excellence program. For example, the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terror (START) is conducting original research on issues that are poorly understood, including risk perception and communication, household and community preparedness for terrorist attacks, likely behavioral responses by the public, social and psychological vulnerability to terrorism, and strategies for mitigating negative psychologi-

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

cal effects and enhancing resilience in the face of the terror threat. The START center is also synthesizing existing research findings in order to provide timely guidance for decision makers and the public, paying special attention to how diverse audiences react to and are affected by threats and preparedness efforts.

In addition, the CDC has developed a national network of 50 Centers for Public Health Preparedness (CPHP) to train the public health workforce to respond to threats to our nation's health, including bioterrorism. These centers work to strengthen terrorism preparedness and emergency public health response at the state and local level and to develop a network of academic-based programs contributing to national terrorism preparedness and emergency response capacity. Information from the CPHP may be relevant and useful to the water sector.

Pretesting Risk Communication Messages

Although the message mapping workshops are a good start to assist stakeholders in preparing messages that will be relevant in a water security incident, the messages have not been tested and evaluated. Therefore, the EPA should engage the research community in pretesting messages being developed by the Center for Risk Communication so that case studies and scenarios can be analyzed for effectiveness in reaching key audiences, and problems can be corrected in advance. Sophisticated evaluation techniques and standard research procedures are used by the CDC to pretest public messages. This evaluation research should be based on standard criteria established in the risk communication literature (e.g., Mailback and Parrott, 1995; National Cancer Institute, 2002; Witte et al., 2001).

Analysis of the Risks and Benefits of Releasing Security Information

The decision of when to release or withhold water security information is critical to the development of a risk communication strategy. Therefore, the EPA should analyze the risks and benefits of releasing water security information, considering input from its broad range of constituents, and develop transparent agency guidance on when to release information versus when to withhold it due to security concerns.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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The committee considers this a priority because of the difficulty and importance of the information sharing problem.

Water-Related Risk Communication Training

As the lead U.S. agency in water system security, the EPA should assume the responsibility for developing a national training program on water-related risk communication planning and implementation for water managers. This should be done in collaboration with the water and wastewater organizations, state government agencies, public health officials, health care officials, and others engaged in communication of risks during water-related emergencies.

Decontamination

Decontamination research is critical to improving response and recovery, and the products are applicable to address unintentional contamination events from natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, floods, earthquakes) and routine malfunctions (e.g., pipe breaks, negative pressures due to power losses). The EPA has numerous ongoing projects in this area that should be completed, but additional research topics are also suggested below.

Addressing Data Gaps

EPA decontamination research products released thus far have shown that fundamental physical, chemical, and/or biological characteristics of many threat agents of concern are not yet known. Therefore, additional laboratory research is needed related to the behavior of contaminants in water supply and wastewater systems and methods for decontaminating water infrastructure. For example, one research priority would be to develop inactivation rate data for all microbes of concern with both free and combined chlorine strategies, because both approaches are used in the water industry. Rate and equilibrium data for adsorption/desorption of contaminants on pipe walls is also needed, although the EPA could also take advantage of existing databases on structure-activity relationships to predict these behaviors. Long-term re-

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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search, perhaps in partnership with other Office of Research and Development units, could enhance our understanding of the fate, transport, and transformation of toxics in water and wastewater environments.

Decontamination Strategies

The EPA should build on its ongoing work in the area of decontamination and address gaps in the current knowledge base. For example, research is needed to examine readily available household inactivation methods for biological agents (including spore-formers), such as microwaving. The EPA should also work to further the development of innovative decontamination technologies that address important water security concerns. Research and development on new POU/POE technologies, such as superheated water devices, could help overcome operational disadvantages of the products currently on the market.

Prioritizing Future Surrogate Research

Surrogates are relevant to numerous water security research applications, including research on contaminant fate and transport, human exposure risks, and decontamination. Research is ongoing to identify surrogates or simulants for biological agents, to determine which surrogates are appropriate, and to determine the ability of typical drinking water disinfection practices (chlorination and chloramination) to inactivate those agents (see Chapter 4, Section 3.2). Much of the research has focused on Bacillus anthracis and other bacterial agents, but the EPA should determine if surrogates for research on biotoxins and viruses are needed and whether additional surrogates are needed for other bacterial agents. A viral simulant or surrogate would be helpful to examine virus survival in fresh water, drinking water, and sewage, as well as virus susceptibility to water disinfectants. Research in this area has relevance to viral bioterrorism agents and also has strong dual-use research applications because viral surrogates could facilitate risk assessment studies on natural viruses (e.g., SARS, avian influenza).

Surrogate research is a laborious experimental process (see Box 4-1) that must be conducted in one of the few laboratories already authorized to keep and work with select agents. Considerable research is required to compare the select agent with candidate surrogates under the experimental conditions of interest. As discussed in Chapter 4, surrogates need not

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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mimic in all respects the agents they stand in for. For some important security or decontamination uses, it may only be necessary that they provide an appropriate bound on the characteristic of interest in the target agent (e.g., persistence, disinfectant sensitivity). Therefore, the EPA should carefully consider and prioritize the agents and the research applications for which surrogates are needed. The prioritization process for surrogates should consider the following:

  • Which types of research could be greatly facilitated through the availability of surrogates?

  • Which types of research with surrogates might have “dual-use” applications (i.e., could the properties of certain surrogates also be usefully extrapolated to other common organisms)?

  • Which types of research should be done only with select agents?

  • How closely should the surrogate properties of interest match that of the target organism?

  • What are the costs and benefits to the research program associated with surrogate development versus use of the pathogenic agents?

The EPA should engage a limited number of individuals (e.g., federal partners, academics) who are involved in similar research in this prioritization process.

Lessons Learned from Natural Disasters

Midway through the committee’s work, NRC (2005; see Appendix A) suggested the EPA take advantage of experience gained in the aftermath of Katrina so as to improve future response and recovery efforts for water security. While a hurricane caused this catastrophe, it is conceivable that a similar result might have occurred if the levees had been destroyed by terrorist explosives. Thus, New Orleans offered a living laboratory to study many aspects of the impacts of a disaster on water and wastewater systems of all sizes. Failure modes, infrastructure interdependencies, decontamination and service restoration strategies, the availability of alternative supplies, communication strategies, and the ability to service special institutions (e.g., hospitals) and special needs individuals could all have been examined in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. To the best of the committee’s knowledge, however, the EPA has not attempted to compile a knowledge base from this experience. As

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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time passes, it will become increasingly difficult to reconstruct what transpired. Other natural or manmade disasters, such as the earthquakes in California in 1989 and 1994 or the “Great Flood of 1993” in the Mid-west, or natural contamination events, such as the Milwaukee Cryptosporidium outbreak, may also offer opportunities to mine important data about the failure or recovery of water and wastewater systems, but detailed information on these earlier occurrences may be lacking. In the future, the NHSRC should be poised to seize opportunities for learning about response and recovery after major natural or man-made disasters affecting water or wastewater systems.

Summary of Research Priorities for Improving Response and Recovery

Short-Term Priorities
Tools and Data for Emergency Planning and Response
  • Determine strategic plans for managing and maintaining the WCIT/CAT databases, considering the likely uses and long-term goals for the databases.

  • Develop and implement a strategy for evaluating the utility and usability of the response tools and databases, including stakeholder feedback and lessons learned during their use under “real-life” incidents.

  • Convene a working group to develop research strategies for filling the data gaps in WCIT/CAT and other planned emergency response databases.

Contingencies for Water Emergencies
  • Complete the work in progress on contingencies and infrastructure interdependencies under Section 3.5 of the Action Plan.

  • Test and evaluate the most promising innovative water supply technologies that enable or enhance the short- or long-term delivery of drinking water in the event of systemic failure of water systems. Analyze the positive features and those areas needing improvement prior to full-scale deployment.

  • Conduct research on potential contingencies for failures of the “human subsystem.”

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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Behavioral Sciences and Risk Communication
  • Analyze factors that build trust, reduce fear, and prevent panic to improve overall communication strategies in a water-related emergency.

  • Investigate the behavioral science research being conducted by the Homeland Security University Centers of Excellence and other federal agencies for applicability to the water sector.

  • Pretest messages being developed by the Center for Risk Communication and analyze case studies and scenarios for effectiveness.

  • Analyze the risks and benefits of releasing security information to inform the EPA’s risk communication strategies and its practices on information sharing.

  • Fully integrate risk communication efforts into the overall risk management program and provide adequate resources that ensure these efforts remain a high priority in the EPA’s future water security research program.

  • Conduct research to better understand how agencies will interact in a water-related crisis situation and determine what strategies will be most effective in encouraging and maintaining collaboration in planning and preparedness.

Decontamination
  • Complete the many decontamination projects in progress under Section 3.4 of the Action Plan.

  • Develop predictive models or laboratory data for inactivation of bioterrorism agents in both free chlorine and chloramines that can be used in MS-EPANET and the TEVA model.

  • Explore development and testing of new POU/POE devices that may overcome the disadvantages of existing devices.

  • Examine readily available household inactivation methods for biological agents (including spore-forming agents), such as microwaving.

  • Determine the costs and benefits of further research to identify additional surrogates, considering which agents under which conditions or applications should be prioritized for surrogate development research.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×
Lessons Learned from Natural Disasters
  • Use the remaining data from the experience of Hurricane Katrina to analyze the optimal response and recovery techniques (e.g., water supply alternatives, contingency planning, and infrastructure interdependencies) that would also apply to water security events.

  • Integrate experience with decontamination of the distribution system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to improve EPA guidance for water security decontamination.

  • Evaluate risk communication strategies related to Hurricane Katrina or other past disaster events to determine if communication strategies related to drinking water safety reached the most vulnerable populations.

  • Develop a post-event strategy for learning from future natural disasters affecting water systems. This strategy should support on-site assessments of impacts and interdependencies and evaluations of successes and failures during response and recovery.

Long-Term Priorities
Tools and Data for Emergency Planning and Response
  • Continue to develop and maintain the WCIT/CAT databases according to the objectives set forth in the strategic database management plan. Incorporate a mechanism to provide on-going peer review of the data to meet its data quality objectives.

  • Continue experimental and computational research to fill critical data gaps in WCIT/CAT, including research on the health effects of both acute and chronic exposure to priority contaminants.

Contingencies for Water Emergencies
  • Develop new, innovative technologies for supplying drinking water to affected customers over both short- and long-term water system failures.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×
Risk Communication and Behavioral Sciences
  • Develop a program of interdisciplinary empirical research in behavioral sciences to better understand how to prepare stakeholders for water security incidents. The EPA should support original research that will help address critical knowledge gaps. For example:

    • What are the public’s beliefs, opinions, and knowledge about water security risks?

    • How do risk perception and other psychological factors affect responses to water-related events?

    • How can these risks be communicated more effectively to the public?

  • Develop a national training program on water-related risk communication planning and implementation for water managers.

Decontamination
  • Continue laboratory research to fill the data gaps related to behavior of contaminants in water supply and wastewater systems and methods for decontaminating water infrastructure.

  • Continue surrogate research based on the research prioritization determined in collaboration with an interagency working group. The EPA should also explore ways that this surrogate research could assist in responding to everyday agents or to other routes of exposure (e.g., inhalation, inactivating agents on surfaces).

Implementation of Priorities

The EPA has historically been a lead federal agency in understanding the fate and transport of contaminants in the environment and has a clear understanding of the practical concerns of the water sector. Thus, the EPA remains the appropriate lead agency to develop the tools for emergency response and to prioritize the research needed to fill the remaining gaps, with input from key stakeholders. The EPA is also well suited to develop a national training program on water-related risk communication and to evaluate lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and other past disaster events. However, innovative technology development research, such as the development of novel technologies for supplying water during system failures, should be conducted by other agencies,

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

university researchers, or firms with the greatest expertise. The EPA, instead, should focus its efforts on harvesting information on existing technologies, synthesizing this information for end users, and providing guidance to developers on unique technology needs for water security. Behavioral science research and evaluation research is more appropriately conducted by universities or other federal agencies (e.g., CDC) that have the necessary expertise to complete these tasks. However, the EPA still needs in-house behavioral science experts able to supervise and use this work to best advantage.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

In this chapter, recommendations are provided for future research directions in the area of water security. Two key water security research gaps—behavioral science and innovative future system design—that were not considered in the short-term planning horizon of the Action Plan are identified. In accordance with the committee’s charge (see Chapter 1), short- and long-term water security research priorities are presented in three areas: (1) developing products to support more resilient design and operation of facilities and systems, (2) improving the ability of operators and responders to detect and assess incidents, and (3) improving response and recovery.

The EPA should develop a program of interdisciplinary empirical research in behavioral science to better understand how to prepare stakeholders for water security incidents. The risks of terrorism are dynamic and uncertain and involve complex behavioral phenomena. The EPA should take advantage of existing behavioral science research that could be applied to water security issues to improve response and recovery efforts. At the same time, when gaps exist, the EPA should support rigorous empirical research that will help address, for example, what the public’s beliefs, opinions, and knowledge about water security risks are; how risk perception and other psychological factors affect responses to water-related events; and how to communicate these risks effectively to the public.

The EPA should take a leadership role in providing guidance for the planning, design, and implementation of new, more sustainable and resilient water and wastewater facilities for the 21st century. Given the investments necessary to upgrade and sustain the country’s water and wastewater systems, research on innovative approaches to make the infrastructure more sustainable and resilient both to routine and

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
×

malicious incidents would provide substantial dual-use benefits. The EPA should help develop and test new concepts, technologies, and management structures for water and wastewater utilities to meet objectives of public health, sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and homeland security. Specific research topics related to drinking water and wastewater, such as decentralized systems and in-pipe interventions to reduce exposure from contaminants, are suggested.

Recommended research topics in the area of supporting more resilient design and operation of drinking water and wastewater systems include improved processes for threat and consequence assessments and innovative designs for water and wastewater. A thorough and balanced threat assessment encompassing physical, cyber, and contaminant threats is lacking. To date, the EPA has focused its threat assessments on contaminant threats, but physical and cyber threats deserve more attention and analysis because this information could influence the EPA’s future research priorities and utilities’ preparedness and response planning.

Research suggestions that improve the ability of operators and responders to detect and assess incidents build upon the EPA’s current research in the areas of analytical methodologies and monitoring and distribution system modeling. In the short term, the EPA should continue research to develop and refine a first-stage RTMS based on routine water quality parameters with dual-use applications. Long-term research recommendations include the development of innovative detection technologies and cheaper, more accurate RTMSs. To support the simulation models in development, a substantial amount of fundamental research is needed to improve understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants in distribution systems. Based on the number of emerging technologies and agents of interest, the EPA should develop a prioritization strategy for technology testing to optimize the resources devoted to this effort.

Recommendations for future research priorities to improve response and recovery emphasize the sustainability of tools for emergency planning and response (e.g., WCIT/CAT) and improving research on water security contingencies, behavioral sciences, and risk communication. The EPA should also evaluate the relative importance of future laboratory work on surrogate development and address data gaps in the knowledge of decontamination processes and behavior. So far, the EPA has not taken advantage of the many opportunities from Hurricane Katrina to harvest lessons learned related to response and recovery, and the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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Some of the research recommendations provided in this chapter lie outside of the EPA’s traditional areas of expertise. The EPA will need to consider how best to balance intramural and extramural research funding to carry out this research, while maintaining appropriate oversight and input into the research activities. Increasing staff expertise in some key areas, such as physical security and behavioral sciences, will be necessary to build a strong and well-rounded water security research program.

Suggested Citation:"6 Recommendations for Future Research Directions." National Research Council. 2007. Improving the Nation's Water Security: Opportunities for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11872.
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