I became interested in Water and Terrorism issues when I was writing the chapter about Water Conflicts, Wars and Terrorism for my book Understanding Water Rights and Conflicts, Second Edition, ISBN: 1-893478-05-x. The more research that I did, the more I became convinced that the public needed more information .Few events in our lives impact us like the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, NY, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the aborted attack over Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. This event, known as September 11, or 911, became synonymous with terrorism in America. Approximately 3,000 lives were lost, two skyscrapers were destroyed and American lives were disrupted, as well as changed psychologically forever. With respect to terrorism, America lost its innocence.
However, Americans responded. First by striking back at terrorism around the world, then by working on preparations to protect against another attack. Several landmark pieces of legislation were passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. The USA Patriot Act and the Bioterrorism Act, as well as the creation and authorization
of the Department of Homeland Security will have a profound impact on our American Society.
Much of what is being done, however, can only really be effective if Americans themselves become informed and aware. This is the reason for this book Understanding Water and Terrorism.
Understanding Water and Terrorism
The following is the Introduction to my new book entitled Understanding Water and Terrorism. I wrote it to raise the level of awareness of the general public about the potential terrorist threat to our nation's water supplies.
Introduction - Understanding Water and Terrorism
Author: H. Court Young
“We used to think that energy and water would be critical issues for the next century. Now we think that water will be the critical issue.”
Mostafa Tolba of Egypt, Former head of the United Nations Environmental Program
One of the stated goals of the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, February, 2003 is defending United States citizens and interests at home and abroad. Part of this is reducing the vulnerability of United States personnel, critical infrastructure and other U.S. interests. The following is a quote from that document;
“Objective: Enhance measures to ensure the integrity, reliability, and availability of critical physical and information-based infrastructures at home and abroad. Protection of vital systems is a shared responsibility of the public and private sectors, working collectively with the owners, operators, and users of those systems.”
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) notes in its report Protecting Our Water, Drinking Water Security In America After 9/11;
“A secure water supply really is a cornerstone of homeland security.”
Humans can live only minutes without air, several days without water and weeks without food. Yet, for most of us, the thought of not having “a drink of water” when we are thirsty is foreign. Very few of us would deliberately forgo a drink of water for even a day. The average amount of water used per person (depending on activity) is .2 to 15 liters a day (3.7 liters=1 gallon) with the average drink being .2 liters.
Because water is so important to our survival, our water supply systems were identified as one of eight critical infrastructure systems in Presidential Decision Directive 63 (PDD 63). This Directive issued on May 22, 1998 was intended to achieve and maintain the capability to protect our nation’s critical infrastructure from intentional acts of terror.The following quote from The National Strategy for Homeland Security puts the issue into perspective,
“Unless we act to prevent it, a new wave of terrorism potentially involving the world’s most destructive weapons looms in America’s future. It is a challenge as formidable as any ever faced by our nation.”
Further, regarding the terrorists, The National Strategy for Homeland Security notes, “Terrorists are strategic actors. They choose their targets deliberately based on weakness they observe in our defenses and our preparedness.”
A Congressional Research and Service Report entitled Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector by Claudia Copeland and Betsy Cody dated February 26, 2003 states,
“The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have drawn attention to the security of many institutions, facilities and systems in the United States, including the nation’s water supply and water quality infrastructure. These systems have long been recognized as being potentially vulnerable to terrorists attacks of various types, including physical disruption, bioterrorism/chemical contamination and cyber attack.”
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) in its paper entitled Protecting Our Water, Drinking Water Security
in America After 9/11 notes,
“While America’s water utilities are safe today, they are not immune against terrorist attack and a successful attack on the water supply, while unlikely, could be catastrophic. A secure water supply is really a cornerstone of homeland security.”
In his paper entitled A Chemical and Biological Warfare Threat: USAF Water Systems at Risk, September, 1991, Major Donald C. Hickman, USAF, puts the threat to water systems in a different perspective. He discusses the common biological and chemical agents, but goes on to say,
“The agents, however, are not the only chemicals a saboteur might use in drinking water. The world is replete with dangerous industrial chemicals, hazardous materials, pesticides, fungicides and the like. Many of these are acutely toxic to humans in doses obtainable by deliberate water system contamination. ... In summary potential adversaries have a veritable supermarket menu of weapons choices.”
Major Hickman is with the USAF Counterproliferation Center, is a graduate in biology, with a master of science in environmental engineering and is a certified industrial hygienist. His report is a discussion of the vulnerability of United States Air Force Bases via the water supply system that serves them. He states that,
“This analysis should raise some eyebrows. ... An adversary could disable USAF operations with a thermos of bacteria for less than $10,000.”
The security of America’s water supply really depends not just on the government, or water supplier but on all of us. Ultimately, the responsibility for maintaining our safe water supply is noted in the AWWA report Protecting Our Water, Drinking Water Security After 9/11.
“In many cities and small towns the public is the first line of defense, serving as an extra set of eyes watching over key utility assets such as tanks, reservoirs and even fire hydrants.”
Because we are all water users, one key to our water security is to become better informed about our water supply systems, and water suppliers.
“There will be no quick or easy end to this conflict.”
President George W. Bush, February, 2003