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Welcome to the latest edition of American Water's the Pipeline, a quarterly resource for all things water. We see this as one more way to stay connected.

Securing Our Water Infrastructure

Threats Increasing, Solutions Advancing

Recent cyber-attacks, extreme weather events, and other adverse events have illuminated critical challenges facing the utility industries. While not new, these threats are more sophisticated, increasing in number and escalating in their impacts on utilities and customers. In addition, these threats span all industries. When a catastrophic natural or man-made event impacts the energy industry, for example, these threats present a potential downstream impact on water utilities because of how intertwined the sectors are and their interdependencies on each other.

Securing Our Water InfrastructureAt American Water, we take security and emerging weather threats seriously. To help secure our infrastructure and protect our customers, we are committed to investing $22-25 billion over the next 10 years in infrastructure renewal, optimizing operational efficiency, bolstering technology & innovation, improving water quality, enhancing resiliency, and expanding our system. Together, these proactive investments help position American Water for emergency preparedness, threat assessment, and the deployment of innovative solutions to threats that might arise. Continued awareness and advanced planning are essential as these dangers become more common.

This issue of the Pipeline provides information regarding the increasing threats the water industry faces and the people, processes and technology in place at American Water to mitigate threats to our infrastructure and help protect the customers and communities we serve.


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Taking Action to Address Potential Threats

According to a recent NBC infrastructure series, “of all the country's critical infrastructure, water might be the most vulnerable to hackers: the hardest in which to guarantee everyone follows basic cybersecurity steps, and the easiest in which to cause major, real-world harm to large numbers of people.” There have been a number of recent real-world examples of the aforementioned threats to the water utility systems across the country. In this section you will hear from Nick Santillo, the Vice President of Digital Infrastructure and Security at American Water, about how he and his team work to help keep customers and employees safe in these unprecedented times. Additionally, this edition of the Pipeline will discuss how American Water is responding to these threats and supporting legislative efforts in states within its footprint that are advancing enhanced compliance requirements for water safety and security.

Cyber Attacks Image Cyber Attacks
In February, the data network of a small municipal water system in Oldsmar, Florida was infiltrated and an attempt was made to increase the amount of lye in the water to unsafe and harmful levels. While threats to any utility can prove detrimental, the fact that water utilities provide an ingestible product means any manipulation of a utility’s operations could have catastrophic results. Fortunately, during this event, an alert employee spotted the issue and thwarted the attempt.


texas winter storm Extreme Weather and Power Loss
Also in February, an unprecedented winter storm swept across Texas causing widespread power outages. Over 4.5 million homes and businesses were left in the cold with no heat, no lights, and no water for days. The loss of electric power impacted the water and wastewater utilities’ ability to process, treat, and pump water at their facilities. Events like this can have a major impact on water and wastewater operations. While American Water does not own any water systems in Texas, our Military Services Group, which manages two military installations in the state, was able to continue to provide essential water service and performed well during this extreme weather event.


Spotlight: A Conversation with Nick Santillo

Vice President, Digital Infrastructure and Security

Nick Santillo Headshot What is your role as Vice President of Digital Infrastructure and Security at American Water and what is digital infrastructure and security? As Vice President of Digital Infrastructure and Security, I am responsible for leading the teams responsible for the company’s physical and cyber security, data privacy, business continuity and digital infrastructure programs. The security program includes physical security and protection of company assets, cyber protection of the company’s technology assets and working with state operations on preparedness planning and exercises related to operational and security issues. Digital Infrastructure is all of the technology systems that support company applications, including the data center systems, call center technology, network and mobile connectivity, and user devices, such as laptops and iPads, as well as the Microsoft Suite of software. My teams are focused on managing risks in these areas and help keep the technologies that are used every day operational, maintained, and secure.
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How does American Water remain ahead of the curve in protecting our systems from cyber security attacks and are there partnerships or engagements within the utility industry to learn or share best industry practices? We have a dedicated team focused on regularly evaluating and implementing cyber industry best practices. We partner closely with the Department of Homeland Security so that we have the latest threat and vulnerability information. We also take a leadership role in the Water sector by Chairing the Water Sector Coordinating Council, where we work collaboratively with the EPA, DHS, and other utilities to develop strategic initiatives for secure water utility operations.

How does American Water’s investment in digital security and other proactive measures enhance our preparedness and translate to benefits for our customers? We invest in digital security to help protect company technology assets as well as to maintain the protection and privacy of the customer information entrusted to us. Having a continuous improvement approach to these safeguards is foundational to continue to provide safe, secure, efficient, and reliable service to our customers.

Solutions to Address Water Safety and Security

Solutions to Address Water Safety and Security

In recognition of the growing number of challenges and threats facing water utilities, legislators and regulators in a growing number of states are implementing new rules and requirements aimed at bolstering the safety and security of water and wastewater systems.

New Jersey was one of the first states to enact such a law. Its Water Quality Accountability Act sets forth a number of requirements that water systems with 500 or more connections must meet to help maintain the provision of reliable water services across the state. Included among the criteria is the need to develop a cybersecurity plan and conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

Other states that have passed similar legislation, include Missouri, which adopted its Water Safety and Security Act, HB 1877, in 2020 and Indiana, which enacted similar legislation, SB 362, in 2018.

American Water applauds these states and stands ready to work with legislators, regulators, and the Biden Administration to develop similar frameworks so that consumers across the country are served by resilient water systems. The Biden Administration has made infrastructure—water infrastructure—a cornerstone of their “American Jobs Plan” and such a bipartisan focus is welcomed by American Water. Water and wastewater infrastructure remains a bipartisan issue and we will stay engaged with leaders at the state and federal levels on this issue on behalf of our customers. We work with both sides of the aisle on constructive water policy.


American Water wants to be a resource of information for you. Through active outreach and engagement with a variety of stakeholders, American Water has taken part in a great exchange of ideas, issues and insights about the challenges that communities face during COVID-19 , as well as what opportunities possibly lie ahead. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us on any water or wastewater topic. Here are just a few examples of resources that provide background on the topics we covered:

We're here if you need us.

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Valoria Armstrong
Chief Inclusion Officer & VP, External Affairs
American Water

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