Software to Strengthen Water System Security

Environmental professionals are always looking for new and innovative ways to improve our existing water infrastructure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy collaborated to create software that enhances a water system’s ability to detect intentional or unintentional contamination to the system. The software named “Canary” can detect a wide variety of chemical and biological contaminants, including pesticides, metals and pathogens. Once a contamination is detected, a water utility can quickly issue a “Do Not Drink” order to prevent their customers from ingesting potentially harmful water.

The developers state, “This type of cutting-edge technology helps protect all people and secure our water supply from possible threats and also improve our drinking water systems by allowing utilities to quickly advise customers when their water is not safe to drink.” Drinking water utilities use the software in conjunction with a network of water-quality sensors to rapidly detect contamination and more accurately assess when and how they need to respond. The software also helps distinguish between natural variation in water-quality measurements and hazardous contamination, and sends an alarm to indicate when water utilities should take steps to investigate and respond to potential contamination. This is not the only achievement of the Canary software; it can also be used to enhance the day-to-day water-quality management of the system.

The first utility to implement this software is the Greater Cincinnati Water Works. The utility has been using this software since 2007 to assist in detecting and managing contamination incidents in their system. The software is currently being evaluated in four other U.S. cities – New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco – as well as Singapore. As a free software tool, Canary is available worldwide to drinking water utilities determined to provide safe, contaminant-free water to their customers.

For more information about the Canary software, visit the EPA website:


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