I once met a writer who was asked not to use the word “critical” in her writing. The request was made because the word was too negative and gloom-and-doom. It was, they said, “scary… and we don’t want to scare people.” They suggested instead that the writer use the word vital explaining that, “vital means the same thing, but it also means life; its connotation is easier to take and is more uplifting!”
I share this story to introduce our blog honoring the nation’s Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month, held each November to, “recognize the vital role that critical infrastructure plays in our nation’s way of life and why it is important to expand and reinforce critical infrastructure security and resilience.” Look at that, in using the definition provided by the US EPA, who established and leads the nation in the observance of CISR Month, I’ve used that “scary” word three times. I have no reservations in doing so!
As I see it, the word critical is, well, critical in understanding this month, as well as in achieving its goals. Why? Because “critical” gets right to the heart of the matter, and it hits hard. If it causes individuals, communities, businesses and ecological activists to feel afraid about what is or could become of our infrastructure, that is a good thing in terms of fear being a very powerful motivator for action.
Society has come a long way in understanding and respecting the critical role of our nation’s infrastructure as being the foundation of our economy, security, healthy prosperity and well-being. But, because of the growing influence of everything from climate variability and extreme weather to terrorism, no longer do we talk about merely the infrastructure itself being critical to the American way of life. Now we also include, as equally critical, the security and resiliency of that infrastructure. A look at EPA’s definition of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors helps greatly in explaining why:
“Those sectors that compose the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”
When talking about water and wastewater systems as one of those sectors, I think it’s easy for people to see how a breakdown of water infrastructure could have an impact on the economy and public health. We can even see how a disruption of water and wastewater service could alter our daily lives beyond being inconvenient.
This is why we continue to see and hear about movements to unite individual efforts made by communities, governments and utilities under an umbrella-type system focused on national infrastructure security and resiliency. It is why American Water will continue to address the critical nature of our water systems and advocate for partnerships between private and public sectors. And it is why today I encourage all of you to remember the word critical, be alert and take action to help keep our water infrastructure safe and secure.