A subcommittee hearing held yesterday on Ensuring Cybersecurity of America’s Drinking Water Systems, top water and wastewater systems sector trade officials expressed concerns to lawmakers that utilities are in urgent need of more government funding for cybersecurity training and resources. The hearing came after recent cyber attacks on the sector, and in the wake of the Volt Typhoon disruption as critical infrastructure is being targeted by adversarial nation state-aligned actors from China and Iran. Witnesses also emphasized that the water and wastewater systems sector lacks the same protections as the energy sector.
The Environment, Manufacturing, & Critical Materials subcommittee suggested that adding more cybersecurity regulations may do more harm than good. The witnesses, which all represented trade organizations in the water industry, emphasized the importance of additional funding from Congress to address the need for more cyber training and “know-how” within the sector. The trillion-dollar infrastructure law, along with various EPA grants, focus mainly on ensuring clean water and not on securing the sector’s technology. Scott Dewhirst, superintendent and chief operating officer at Tacoma Water said, “A lot of money is being put forth for a lot of different infrastructure and we’ve been focused on the quality issue of water and not necessarily cyber.” In addition, Dr. Kevin Morley, manager of federal regulations for the American Water Works Association (AWWA), asked to implement the regulatory framework put forth by AWWA in 2021. This would act much like the electric industry, consisting of an industry leading organization developing standards and audited by the EPA. Members are encouraged to review the recording on the Energy & Commerce Committee Democrats YouTube Channel for more insights, including poignant questions from the subcommittee members. For more information, visit Cyberscoop.
Scott Dewhirst testified on behalf of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA). Mr. Dewhirst serves on AMWA’s Board of Directors and is also a member of WaterISAC’s Board of Managers.