Model legislation proposed for cybersecurity in water sector A six part legislative proposal has been issued by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as a basis to address cybersecurity in the water sector. The first proposal would provide authority for a process by which minimum cybersecurity standards would be developed and implemented based on similar approach in the electric sector. This new governance process would have oversight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but implementation would be performed by a new water risk and resilience organization. The second proposal includes important enhancements to cyber threat information sharing with water systems and WaterISAC, includes $10M in FY23-24 to support enhanced engagement and collaboration. The third proposal is intended to strengthen and expand EPA’s functionality to perform its duties as the sector risk management agency for the water sector. The fourth proposal recognizes the budgetary constraints facing water systems and recommends that each state revolving loan fund program designate at least one percent of appropriated funds for technical cybersecurity assistance and/or the deployment of innovative cybersecurity technologies. The fifth proposal would provide $5M annual in FY22 through FY2027 for technical assistance through the circuit rider programs support by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Finally, the sixth proposal would require wastewater systems to conduct risk and resilience assessment and prepared emergency response plans in similar manner to what drinking water systems must do under §2013 of Americas Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. Each of these legislative proposals expand on recommendations made by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission in its March 2020 report . Several items are closely aligned with policy needs identified as priorities by AWWA’s Water Utility Council. This includes seeking support for a coregulatory model that AWWA recommended as means to provide more consistency in the implementation of cybersecurity best practices and ensure sector expertise guides the process with oversight from EPA. In recent testimony at a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on April 5, AWWA called out the need for a new governance approach for cybersecurity, options to improve information sharing and the value of funding for capacity development and operational updates. Proposal could impact 30 percent of chlorine production In response to continued pressure to eliminate all commercial applications of asbestos, EPA has proposed to stop allowing the use of asbestos diaphragms in chlor-alkali production. Currently, an estimated 26 percent of chlorine and sodium hypochlorite production serving the water sector utilizes these asbestos diaphragms. It is uncertain how much of this production capacity would transition to an alternative production process. Because chlor-alkali products, e.g., chlorine gas, sodium hypochlorite and sodium hydroxide, are so central to drinking water and wastewater treatment, AWWA has initiated a survey to inform EPA about the impact of this action on the sector. Survey responses are requested by May 13. Prepare now for priority source water area updates Water utilities are encouraged to start contacting the offices of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to express interest in participating in updating priority areas for source water protection efforts. For the last several years, NRCS has initiated an internal process to update priority source water areas beginning in early summer and ending early fall. We expect them to begin that process again this summer and engage with stakeholders at the state level. The first contact is generally the NRCS state conservationist , then the state technical committee and any relevant subcommittees or local groups. The 2018 Farm Bill required NRCS to identify priority source water protection areas for each state. The agency administers funding for agricultural conservation practices that are designed to address resource concerns, including those related to water quality, quantity and source water protection. NRCS is required to assure that 10 percent of conservation spending helps address protection of sources of drinking water. See AWWA’s whiteboard animation on USDA source water protection opportunities here . Clean Water Act Certification Rule left in place In a recent 5-4 decision , the U.S. Supreme Court left EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule in effect while the substance of the rule continues to be litigated. The 401 certification process provides states an opportunity to review certain federally permitted projects for compliance with state law and accept, reject or require conditions for approval of them. The scope of what can appropriately be reviewed, the time states have to conduct a review and what conditions can be placed on a project have been matters of debate the 2020 rule was intended to address. This rule, which impacts both infrastructure deployment and source water protection, has been controversial, and whether it will ultimately survive legal challenge and/or be replaced by EPA is still unclear. WIFIA report shows $5 billion in loans in 2021 EPA’s annual report for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program in 2021 shows more than $5 billion in loans that saved local communities $1.5 billion and created nearly 40,000 jobs. Program officials closed on 31 loans that year which resulted in nearly $12 billion in water infrastructure investment, as WIFIA is only permitted to finance up to 49 percent of a project’s costs. The program has broadened its outreach to smaller communities and to communities with lower credit ratings. The program focuses on larger projects costing at least $20 million but has provisions to allow loans to small communities. The agency has launched a WIFIA Fund Facts Dashboard to provide more information on WIFIA’s portfolio of closed and pending loans. In related news, WIFIA officials announced they had closed on a $120 million loan to the Inland Empire Utilities Agency in California for improvements to a regional wastewater system. EPA estimates Inland Empire will save $27 million by financing through WIFIA, and the project will create 780 jobs. AWWA led the water community’s efforts to get WIFIA enacted in 2014. The program began making loans in the 2017 federal fiscal year. EPA advances PFAS health effects discussions EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap will reach significant milestones in the next month, as the agency wrestles with multiple issues concerning per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). They agency’s efforts under the roadmap include proposing a drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS by fall 2023, issuing new health advisories for two replacement PFAS (GenX and PFBS) and potentially revising advisories for PFOA and PFOS. EPA also committed to continuing work under the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program to prepare risk assessments for five PFAS to support future decision-making processes in the agency. Here are the upcoming, near-term events: April 19: EPA will present an update to the National Drinking Water Advisory Council on the new and revised health advisories for PFAS. Those interested in attending can register . May 3 and 6: The Science Advisory Board PFAS Review Panel will meet to discuss recommendations that have been made to EPA to support the agency’s development of a proposed drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS. The panel was formed to review health effects documents that will be used to set maximum contaminant level goals and quantify health benefits of reducing PFAS in drinking water. If you are interested in attending, proceed to the meeting information webpage and select “Call-In Information.” May 16 and 17: EPA’s IRIS program will host an external peer review meeting to discuss the draft toxicological review for PFHxA, which was released in February. The agency uses these reviews to support future decision-making processes, such as determinations for drinking water regulations. The deadline to register is May 9.