Y2K study: Water supplies are vulnerable

Carey Lening (carey@tstonramp.com)
Fri, 10 Dec 1999 15:42:31 -0800

12/10/99- Updated 01:38 AM ET


Y2K study: Water supplies are vulnerable
By M.J. Zuckerman, USA TODAY

Drinking water and sewage facilities are threatened by the looming Y2K
computer glitch, according to a study by two watchdog agencies that blames
government and industry with lax oversight.

"There are serious doubts that the 55,000 drinking water utilities and the
16,000 publicly owned wastewater facilities in the United States will be
prepared for Y2K," the report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and
the Center for Y2K & Society says.

The report is drawn from surveys conducted by groups such as the American
Water Works Association, which found that no more than 40% of those
responding had completed the first stage of Y2K upgrades by June. Further,
the report notes, fewer than 15% of wastewater treatment facilities are

Although the study sparked debate among government and industry
representatives, all agreed that every household should stockpile water - a
gallon of water per day per person to last a minimum of four days - through
the first few months of 2000....

With only three weeks remaining, water joins a short list of likely Y2K
trouble spots, including 911 systems, schools, scattered power facilities
and some medical and social service systems.

The report notes that low water pressure could interfere with firefighting,
and Y2K interruptions could cut stockpiles of water treatment chemicals.

"We are very concerned about wastewater preparedness," said Don Meyer,
spokesman for the Senate Y2K Committee. "However, we disagree that drinking
water is in crisis."...

The report blames the Environmental Protection Agency and President
Clinton's Y2K Council for not responding aggressively after the surveys came

"My ultimate sense is that most of the large utilities are going to be
prepared," said Chuck Fox, EPA deputy administrator for water. "If there's
going to be (trouble), it would be with the smaller utilities."

[What the report didn't include, but should have:] 'Yet another reason to
buy the Aquabox! [W]ater to get you thru the Y2K problem.'