Wednesday, March 18, 2020

HR 6113 Introduced – ARPA-H2O

Earlier this month Rep Katko (R,NY) introduced HR 6113, the ARPA–H20 Act of 2020. The bill would establish an Advanced Research Projects Administration – Water (ARPA-H2O) within the Environmental Protection Agency. ARPA-H2O would be tasked with enhancing, “through the deployment of advanced technologies, the treatment, monitoring, delivery, affordability, and safety” {§2(a)} of drinking water systems.


Section 5 provides key definitions used in the bill. This is especially important in a bill like this that stands alone, not an amendment of a current statute or law.

The defined terms include:

• Eligible entity; and
• Water systems

The definition of water systems is probably the most important definition provided. It is defined as an entity that {§5(4)}:

• Serves the public;
• Manages the supply, treatment, or conveyance of:

Drinking water;
Wastewater and water resource recovery;
Stormwater; or
Water reuse; and

• Large decentralized systems that provide treatment for two or more households.

Research Advisory Council

Subsection 2(b) would require ARPA-H2O to establish a twelve-member Research Advisory Council to recommend program content and annual research priorities. The members would represent:

• Public and private water systems including large decentralized systems;
• Academia;
• National nonprofits and organizations that represent the water sector and collaborate with the EPA;
• Public or private entities engaged in technology development, deployment, or consultation to enhance delivery, reliability, affordability, and safety of the operations of water systems; and
• Relevant Federal agencies.

Eligible Projects

Subsection 3(b) provides a list of projects that could be eligible for research support by ARPA-H2O. They include:

• Water technologies that may improve efficiency and resiliency of water systems, lower lifecycle costs or reduce energy consumption of water systems treatment and conveyance.
• Methods to detect, monitor, and address contaminants present in drinking water or waste- water.
• Methods to advance nutrient management for source water protection.
• Resource recovery of marketable products derived from water systems including, but not limited to, nutrient, biosolids, energy, metals, and recycled water.
• Advancements in beneficial reuse and desalination that support the diversification of water supplies.
• Approaches to mitigation, containment, and treatment of stormwater.
• Methods to test, treat, and study the impacts of emerging contaminants.

Moving Forward

Neither Katko nor his single cosponsor {Rep Kildee (D,MI)} are member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration. This means that the bill is unlikely to be considered by that Committee. If it were considered, I suspect that there would be some level of bipartisan support for the legislation.


Let’s get a nit-picky complaint out of the way. The first two definitions in §5 reference back to “subsection (a)”. There is no subsection (a) in §5. What the reference should be is to “section 2(a)”.

Since the EPA is congressionally mandated as the agency that is responsible for the security of water systems and wastewater systems, it would seem to me that security research, particularly cybersecurity research, should be an important purview of ARPA-H2O. To that end I would like to suggest the following language be inserted as a new paragraph in §3(b):

(9) Security technologies to prevent physical attacks or cybersecurity threat (as that term is defined in 6 USC 1501) on water supplies, distribution systems, water treatment chemicals or administrative systems that support efficient distribution of drinking water; and

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