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Water Erasmus exchange on water security

Aqua Publica Europea and Aguas de Gaia, the public water operator from Vila Nova de Gaia (Portugal) organised a WATER ERASMUS Technical Workshop on Water Security on 7 April 2022, with the participation of over 65 participants.

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Ensuring the security of water infrastructure from intentional attacks represents an expanding area of work for water utilities as a result of mutually reinforcing trends: evolving legislation, emerging potential threats, technological evolution which may create new vulnerabilities.

The workshop aimed first to provide conceptual references to understand risk management in relation to malicious attack thanks to contribution of experts; participants then explored how a risk-management framework can be translated concretely in the organisation and operations of water utilities drawing on examples from members of Aqua Publica.
 
The first session provided some legislative and theoretical references on security of water infrastructures. Miriam Hofbauerova, Policy Officer at the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, Unit D.2 Counter-Terrorism, European Commission, provided an outline of the EU legal requirements on the protection of critical infrastructures - including water infrastructures - and informed about forthcoming new legislation. Manuel Gonçalves, Security Intelligence Analyst at the Portuguese Internal Intelligence Service, then presented the Portuguese security intelligence approach to risk management in drinking water supply systems. 

The second session was dedicated to further exploring the concept of risk management specifically in the water sector. Rui Teixeira, Head of Water Division at Barreiro Municipality and member of the Thematic Group on Chemical and Biological (CB) Risks to Drinking Water of the European Commission’s Reference Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection, presented the main elements of a Water Security Plan, as outlined in the Guidance Document on this topic produced by the Joint Research Centre of the European commission. 

The members of Aqua Publica Europea, Eau de Paris (Paris, France) and SWDE (Wallonia, Belgium) shared concrete examples of approaches to water security implemented by water utilities. Richard Horaist, (Eau de Paris) focused on the protection of physical infrastructure, while Benjamin Blampain (SWDE) focused on cybersecurity.

In his final remarks, Mr Miguel Lemos, President of Aguas de Gaia, highlighted the key responsibility water utilities have in ensuring the security of their assets, and illustrated the Water Security Plan of the Portuguese operator, which is the result of a fruitful collaboration with the national security service, regulator and other stakeholders. 

While solid methodological instruments for risk management exist, discussions highlighted that implementing risk management is a complex task for utilities, involving a series of challenges such as governance (relation with other stakeholders), staff involvement, financial effort, and questions related to the balance between public information and disclosure of sensitive information. 


About WATER ERASMUS

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Aqua Publica Europea’s WATER ERASMUS initiative fosters a dynamic network of water professional to promote mutual learning through a suite of activities tailored to the needs of APE operators. WATER ERASMUS Technical Workshops address a common water management challenge by relying on members’ and external expertise. Find out more: https://www.aquapublica.eu/ape/exchange