NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Price of Secure Water Supplies

April 4, 2003

Utilities that provide the nation with 80 percent of its drinking water estimate they will need $1.6 billion to pay for security upgrades to prevent terrorist attacks.

  • In a report to the Environmental Protection Agency, water utility companies said they will need to hire more guards and install better fences and lighting, as well as conduct more frequent and sophisticated water testing, to foil terrorists and detect poisons.
  • Waterworks officials say they will expect some of the money to come from the federal government, and that customers will see higher water bills to make up the remainder.
  • Under EPA rules, utilities have six months to implement "emergency-response plans" that correct any weaknesses that they find.
  • While the FBI hasn't had any reports of terrorist attacks on water plants, it has obtained evidence that terrorists have been studying documents describing the vulnerability of water systems.

Experts point out that security costs will vary widely because city water systems are all designed differently.

Source: John J. Fialka, "Water Utilities Need $1.6 Billion for Upgrades," Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB104932166351899100-search,00.html


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