Water Infrastructure

Published: 2018-09-04 12:32:35
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University of Richmond
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Human Population Growth

The global increase in population has brought about challenges in water distribution impacting several industries. Coupled with the aging infrastructure, climate volatility and rising water related energy risks, water distribution remains one of the major challenges affecting the overall growth of the economy. According to the United States environmental protection agency, most US home owners lose a lot of water in leaks due to inefficient fixtures that are installed. An average American family uses close to 300 gallons of water per day. Industries consume much more accounting for more than half of the water available for use. This implies an increasing demand over the last 50 years. Surprisingly, despite the growing needs of the water, only 3 percent of it is available for use. Consequently, more than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe potable water. Consequently, this has led to inadequate sanitation resulting to outbreak of diseases like cholera and typhoid. According to the World health organization report, it is estimated that more than two million children die annually from diarrheal diseases brought about by consumption of contaminated water. This is a cause for alarm judging from the fact that this situation can only get worse if meaningful strategies are not employed to curb these shortages. With such growing rate, by 2025, more than two thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. This dissertation explores the model based vulnerability analysis of water infrastructure and proposes actions that may be taken to reduce vulnerability of the infrastructure.

The US has been able to succeed in adopting advanced water and waste management strategies. Although not fully operational, these practices have helped improve long term viability of the water system enabling widespread supply of clean water. Donnelly & Cooley (2015) claim that innovative mechanisms and cutting-edge engineering practices have enabled employment of efficient technologies to enhance water supply. In establishing a MBVA analysis of the infrastructure in this sector we look at the possible threats affecting this industry.

Threats affecting water supply and infrastructure.

The nation’s infrastructure is made up of thousands of pipeline networks and conduits which rely on the full operation of each other for full functionality. These utilities provide services throughout and this means that the facilities should be fully functional at all times. These systems responsible for delivering water have for long been regarded as fundamental commodities in the country. Drinking water and wastewater systems are regarded as one of the 18 critical infrastructure networks under homeland security (Leuven, 2011). These utilities may vary depending on the intended use but are all significant in the supply of the water. They include: pumping stations, water storage facilities like dams and water tanks and pipelines. Possible threats to the existing water systems are many and keep growing hence the need for counter active measures.

Evolving Environmental Threat

Changes in the political system and way of governance have led to significant changes in the threat of the environment and utilities. Possible terrorist attacks and natural disasters are an indication of the vulnerabilities of the infrastructure. These threats can be further grouped depending on the categories under which they fall. They can be either be naturally or human caused or even infrastructure related. Natural disasters that could possibly impact the water system include snow, tornadoes, windstorms and droughts (Leuven, 2011). In order to counter possible problems caused by the occurrence of such disasters, it is important for utilities to have a response plan incase such events occur and conduct exercises that may help minimize their impacts on the system. Human caused incidents include chemical contamination of the water systems. Although this cannot be mitigated, water utility systems should be able to calculate and foresee possible risks to enable them detect possible security threats. 

The complexity of the water systems makes it vulnerable because of changes in the needs and demand. The vulnerabilities are more susceptible to accidents and failures and these are mostly difficult to defend. This means that a vulnerability assessment should be carried out in areas where the system components are most prone to failure.  These may include areas such as water collection and treatments facilities, storage and distribution facilities and electronic and cyber systems. 

In this era of globalization, cyber threat is a risk to the water utility systems. Individuals may want to corrupt data that is useful in the system operations which may affect the water system efficiencies especially in cases where the utilities are fully automated. This means that management should use infrastructure to secure information stored on the servers to reduce the vulnerability in the systems.

It is also important to recognize other types of threats affecting the water systems ability to deliver services. The threat of aging infrastructure and an aging population have led to reduced proficiency in service delivery leading to delayed maintenance activities and constant breakages requiring repair (Leuven, 2011). Additionally, workforce illnesses may pose problems to service delivery. .

While best practices are occasionally required for better service delivery in this field, funds should be directed to enable the stakeholders be more prepared to counteract these possible threats.

sheldon

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