(U//FOUO) DHS Attacks on Drinking Water Systems


  • 2 pages
  • For Official Use Only
  • June 24, 2010


(U//FOUO) Drinking water systems, especially treatment, distribution, and chemical storage facilities, may be targets for physical destruction, intentional contamination (possibly with chemical, biological or radiological materials), or cyber attack because the infrastructure is highly visible, less hardened, and more accessible than some other critical infrastructure. Terrorists have shown interest in biological agents that could be used for water contamination and, prior to 2003, planned surveillance of U.S. dams, reservoirs, and water supply systems to assess their potential as targets. Even a small-scale or thwarted attack could disrupt or deny service to businesses, households, and emergency responders or inspire public fear.

(U//FOUO) Potential water sector targets are source water, reservoirs, wells, intakes, distribution
systems, pump stations, service lines, fire hydrants, finished water tanks, treatment facilities, equipment
and chemical storage units, and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.

(U//FOUO) Indicators of possible contamination:
— (U//FOUO) A change in water quality and/or physical parameters (odor, taste, color, chemical
change, bacterial counts, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), etc…).
— (U//FOUO) Increased consumer complaints of discoloration, unusual taste, or objectionable
odor; burning of the esophagus; and respiratory symptoms.
— (U//FOUO) An increase in gastrointestinal symptoms/illnesses at emergency medical care
— (U//FOUO) An unexplained drop or change in water pressure.
— (U//FOUO) Signs of forced entry at potential targets/routes of entry, triggering of security
alarms, or evidence of tampering.
(U//FOUO) Possible Indicators of action against drinking water systems:
— (U//FOUO) Theft of water utility computers or other sensitive information.
— (U//FOUO) Theft of radio devices that could be used to jam utility communications or disrupt
— (U//FOUO) Suspicious inquiries regarding anticontamination protocols.
— (U//FOUO) Persons impersonating water sector inspectors or officials, such as from the EPA.
— (U//FOUO) Unauthorized intrusion into water utility Web sites or online SCADA systems.
— (U//FOUO) Utility employees being followed or photographed while working, or suspicious
photography or videotaping at or around water plants.
— (U//FOUO) Stolen, cloned, or missing water utility vehicles or uniforms.

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