Software protects water resources from terror attacks

July 26th, 2011 - 12:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 26 (IANS) Americans drink from the kitchen tap without worrying about pathogens or microbes, even though water utilities might be vulnerable to bio-terror attacks or natural contaminants. But now, a software can help combat these.

Thanks to CANARY event detection software, an open-source software developed by Sandia National Lab with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), public water systems can be protected through timely detection of such threats.

The software tells utility operators within minutes whether something is wrong with their water, giving them time to warn and protect the public.

And it is improving water quality by giving utility managers more comprehensive real-time data about changes in their water.

“People are excited about it because it’s free and because we’ve shown that it works really well,” said Regan Murray, acting associate division director at EPA’s Water Infrastructure Protection Division, according to a Sandia statement.

CANARY is being used in Cincinnati and Singapore, and Philadelphia is testing the software system. A number of other US utilities also are evaluating it.

Sean McKenna, the Sandia researcher who led the team that developed CANARY, said people
began to pay attention to the security of the nation’s water systems after 9/11.

CANARY, which runs on a desktop computer, can be customised for individual water utilities, working with existing sensors and software. It works at lightning speed, McKenna said.

McKenna and Murray said CANARY could have lessened the impact of the nation’s largest public water contamination.

They were referring to the 1993 cryptosporidiosis outbreak in the US which killed dozens, made more than 400,000 ill and cost over $96 million in medical expenses and lost productivity, according to reports.

“If you don’t have a detection system, the way you find out about these things is when people get sick,” Murray said.

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