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Vantage Point: Happy Drinking Water Week!

Monday, May 7, 2018 kicked off Drinking Water Week with an invitation to “Protect the Source” throughout the National Capital Region. InfraGardNCR, the American Water Works Association and the water community across North America are celebrating Drinking Water Week by recognizing the vital role drinking water plays in daily lives. A focus during this week will be how water consumers (and InfraGard members) can take personal responsibility in caring for their tap water and protecting it at its source.

Most people know that ¾ of the earth’s surface is covered by water. But did you know that the water we use for drinking, bathing, and other uses is estimated to represent just one hundredth of one percent of the water on earth – about the same as one drop in a bucket[1]? In the Metropolitan Washington Region, a vast majority of our drinking water comes from surface water sources – the Potomac River, the Patuxent River, and the Occoquan Reservoir. Water from these and other sources is treated by 13 drinking water suppliers and moved by 27 distributors to reach millions of homes, thousands of businesses, and more than 114,000 fire hydrants throughout the region.

After it’s been used, that same water is carried through an additional 16,000 miles of sewer pipes to the 18 major wastewater treatment plants in the region, including DC Water’s Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is the largest advanced wastewater treatment plant in the world. For comparison purposes, there are only 1,363 miles of highway in the metropolitan Washington region – 22 times less than the 30,500 miles of water and sewer mains[2]. The services provided by water and wastewater utilities – access to clean, safe water and sanitation – have been recognized as among the top ten public health accomplishments of the past century[3]. And remember – no water, no coffee (or air conditioning, firefighting, bathing, clean clothes, you get the point).

As InfraGard members, you know we focus on partnerships and protecting critical infrastructure. Consistent with this mission, here are some (but not all) water sector partnerships and activities underway this year:

  • Earlier this year, the InfraGardNCR Water Sector Chief, Patti Lamb (DC Water), organized a workshop between water/wastewater utilities and the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center (WRTAC) to discuss the WRTAC’s capabilities and the potential for sharing important threat and intelligence information with water sector partners.

  • Patti is also coordinating NCR Water Sector participation in EarthEx 2018, a multi-sector, international exercise designed to evaluate and improve restoration support, preparedness, response and recovery plans for severe hazards.

  • InfraGardNCR is also partnering with the WaterISAC and the FBI to carryout a national webinar on the topics of antitrust, bid rigging, and collusion.

As an InfraGard member, there are easy things you can do at home every day to protect critical water infrastructure and source water:

  • Pour coffee grounds, grease, and other oily substances into an empty container like a soup can. Cool the can in the freezer between uses and when full, put a lid on it and throw it in the trash.

  • Only flush the “three P’s” down the toilet (pee, poop, toilet paper). Other materials belong in the trash.

  • Don’t pour unwanted medications down the drain or flush them down the toilet. Take them to a prescription drug drop off location or local drug take-back event.

  • You can find more tips here:

Lastly, make sure you drink plenty of healthy, delicious water! You can fill up your water bottle for free throughout the Metropolitan Washington Region. Just click here to find out where:

[1]Ball, P. (2001). Life’s matrix – a biography of water. Berkley, CA. University of California Press.

[2]COG Infrastructure Report

[3]CDC –

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