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Biosecur Bioterror. 2006;4(2):147-59.

The biological threat to U.S. water supplies: Toward a national water security policy.

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  • 1Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, USA.


In addition to providing potable drinking water, U.S. water systems are critical to the maintenance of many vital public services, such as fire suppression and power generation. Disruption of these systems would produce severe public health and safety risks, as well as considerable economic losses. Thus, water systems have been designated as critical to national security by the U.S. government. Previous outbreaks of waterborne disease have demonstrated the vulnerability of both the water supply and the public's health to biological contamination of drinking water. Such experiences suggest that a biological attack, or even a credible threat of an attack, on water infrastructure could seriously jeopardize the public's health, its confidence, and the economic vitality of a community. Despite these recognized vulnerabilities, protecting water supplies from a deliberate biological attack has not been sufficiently addressed. Action in this area has suffered from a lack of scientific understanding of the true vulnerability of water supplies to intentional contamination with bioweapons, insufficient tools for detecting biological agents, and a lack of funds to implement security improvements. Much of what is needed to address the vulnerability of the national water supply falls outside the influence of individual utilities. This includes developing a national research agenda to appropriately identify and characterize waterborne threats and making funds available to implement security improvements.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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