PORTLAND, Ore. January 19, 2006. In the
United States, hundreds of thousands of bodies of surface water—like
lakes, rivers, and reservoirs—help supply the American public
with its drinking water. If a chemical or biological contaminant
were accidentally or intentionally introduced into a drinking water
source, knowing what threat it posed to the public would be essential
to the incident commanders charged with mounting an emergency response.
“ Incident commanders need timely and accurate information
to guide their decisions on deploying first responders to best
protect the public,” said
Douglas Ryan, manager of the Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Aquatic
and Land Interactions Program. “This information often can be drawn from
sources that already exist, but they are scattered and usually not quickly
available to on-the-scene commanders in emergencies.”
need for a readily available, single source of information, Ryan organized
an interagency effort to develop ICWater (pronounced icy water),
incident command tool designed to help protect drinking water in an emergency.
He serves as the effort’s overall task manager and is based at the
Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Olympia, Wash.
ICWater is a computer–based
tool that integrates multiple information sources and data from incident
commanders at the scene of a surface water contamination.
With this information, it quickly produces maps, tables, and charts that
tell incident commanders if drinking water intakes are in the contaminant’s
path, and when and in what concentration the contaminant will reach the
intakes. Developing ICWater draws upon the extensive expertise of the
Service in water research as well as data sources from several other
The ICWater command tool is currently used by water utilities
and State HAZMAT (hazardous materials) response teams in Oregon
and Washington, the
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental
in the Ohio Valley. An operational version will be deployed and available
for use by first responders nationally by summer 2006.
In addition to
the USDA Forest Service, the Technical Support Working Group,
United States Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency
Agency, and Defense Threat Reduction Agency have supported this effort.
PNW Research Station, headquartered in Portland, Ore., generates
and communicates scientific knowledge to help people understand
and make informed
natural resources and the environment. It has 10 laboratories located
in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington and about 500 employees.