Safe drinking water is a prerequisite for protecting public health and all human activity. Properly treated wastewater is vital for preventing disease and protecting the environment. Thus, ensuring the supply of drinking water and wastewater treatment and service is essential to modern life and the Nation’s economy.
There are approximately 153,000 public drinking water systems and more than 16,000 publicly owned wastewater treatment systems in the United States. More than 80 percent of the U.S. population receives their potable water from these drinking water systems, and about 75 percent of the U.S. population has its sanitary sewerage treated by these wastewater systems.
The Water and Wastewater Systems Sector is vulnerable to a variety of attacks, including contamination with deadly agents; physical attacks, such as the release of toxic gaseous chemicals; and cyberattacks. The result of any variety of attack could be large numbers of illnesses or casualties and/or a denial of service that would also impact public health and economic vitality. The sector is also vulnerable to natural disasters. Critical services, such as firefighting and healthcare (hospitals), and other dependent and interdependent sectors, such as Energy, Food and Agriculture, and Transportation Systems, would suffer negative impacts from a denial of service.
Additionally, both the ability to “supply water” and “manage wastewater” are considered National Critical Functions – functions of government and the private sector so vital to the U.S. that their disruption, corruption, or dysfunction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.
The Water and Wastewater Systems Sector-Specific Plan details how the National Infrastructure Protection Plan risk management framework is implemented within the context of the unique characteristics and risk landscape of the sector. Each Sector Risk Management Agency develops a sector-specific plan through a coordinated effort involving its public and private sector partners. The Environmental Protection Agency is designated as the Sector Risk Management Agency for the Water and Wastewater Systems Sector. Presidential Policy Directive 21 changed the name of the Water Sector to the Water and Wastewater Systems Sector in 2013.