Water Information Summit XVI: Cybersecurity for Water Security


The Water Information Summit XVI (WIS-16) will focus on Cybersecurity for Water Security. This event is co-organized by the Water Web Consortium (WWCo), the UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Water Security in the Institute of Environment at Florida International University (FIU, USA), the Escuela Politecnica del Litoral (ESPOL, Ecuador), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the UNESCO Hydrological Intergovernmental Program (UNESCO-IHP).

The Summit will take place December 8-9, 2021 through a virtual setting. | 

The number of cyberattacks has increased in the past years, in particular since early 2020 with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fact that the majority of the attacks have been directed to financial institutions, service provider entities, such as water utilities and other water-related institutions, are being targeted with increasing frequency. 

In this context, it is important for the water sector to understand the vulnerabilities of its information and communication systems and the need to incorporate cybersecurity measures in their strategic and operational planning.


Recent cybersecurity breaches have demonstrated that unauthorized incursions into the water sector’s computerized systems can affect not just their information and data banks, but also their operational processes, equipment, and infrastructure. Therefore, there is an urgent need to address the issue of how do cyberattacks affect water security. Since its inception, the UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Water Security at the Institute of the Environment in FIU, together with its partners, such as the Water Web Consortium (WWCo), The UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral (ESPOL), and others, has been looking into the present and potential future impacts of cybersecurity breaches in the sector. The study of various cyberattacks aimed at the water sector are showing that these incidents can influence water security at different levels.

The presentations and discussions at the upcoming Water Information Summit XVI (WIS-16) aim to answer the question is “Cybersecurity, an Integral Part of Water Security?” At the event, the present situation and trends of cybersecurity threats to the water sector will be addressed.  Testimonials will be provided by the speakers and panelists illustrating observed scenarios, at the local, national, and international levels.

To further expand the discussions, the following themes will be addressed:

  1. Cybersecurity Policies and Legislation in the Water Sector: The existing cybersecurity policies and regulations at the national level for various countries will be presented. Similarly, panelists will discuss policies and protocols adopted by different institutions (private and public) in the Americas.
  2. Water Information Systems: Data Quality and Security: Schemes to counteract unlawful intrusions into data and information depositories by hackers will be presented.  The speakers will look into the importance of maintaining the quality of data and information, in particular to provide online services, such as early flood warnings or climate/weather variations.
  3. Monitoring and Expanding Diverse Participation in Cybersecurity in the Water Sector: Despite the progress made by the incursion of women and minorities in most professional’s sectors, the area of cybersecurity will benefit from expanding its base of professional base at the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and water sector levels.  Today, in the cybersecurity sector less than 25% of its professionals are women, which is a much lower statistic than what exists for the overall ICT sector.
  4. Water Security in the Era of Covid-19, providing Secure Information Systems: With the advent of the CoVID-19 pandemic, ICT systems have been more easily targeted by hackers due to the lack of adequate cybersecurity means (software and hardware) available to the majority of those transitioned to working from their homes. In view that many enterprises and government institutions still have part of their workforce operating from their houses, cybersecurity systems need to continue to be upgraded.  Issues related to cybersecurity threats and innovative tools available or under development for the water sector.
  5. Educational Profile of the Water Professionals of the Future: One of the major issues that has been identified is the need to increase capacity-building opportunities related to cybersecurity.  Speakers from various universities and organizations will inform on how their respective institutions are developing new formal academic curricula and structuring professional development programs to fill this capacity void.
  6. Integrating Cybersecurity to Water Security: To attain or sustain Water Security, consideration is being given to guarantee adequate amounts of water of acceptable quality, which allows the sustained development and promotion of both human and ecosystem health. To attain this goal, water resources need be safe-guarded, and the water sector is required to operate safely and counteract cybersecurity attacks. Speakers will discuss how to incorporate cybersecurity into water security strategic and operational planning efforts.

A select group of international speakers will be making presentations on each of the above themes, followed by a discussion with recognized experts in the various topics. Participants will have the opportunity to contribute questions to the speakers and panelists. The event will have available English to Spanish and Spanish to English translation.

The general program agenda can be found below or you can download the full event agenda.

English-Spanish translations are sponsored by: jn-foundation-horizontal-logo1.png

Interpreter: Ms. Camila Parra

The thematic agenda below is a general overview of the webinar programming. Please continue to check the webpage for any possible updates to the agenda. 

Day 1                          DECEMBER 8, 2021

                                   INAUGURAL SESSION
                                   Moderator: Maria del Pilar Cornejo de Grunauer, Director CIP-RRD, ESPOL,

                                   Welcoming Remarks: Basil Fernandez – WWCo President, Jamaica

                                   History of the WWCo: Mantha Mehallis – WIS Founder, USA

                                   Objectives of WIS 16: Todd Crowl – Advisory Board of the UNESCO Chair on
                                                                                               Sustainable Water Security and Director of                                                                                                   the Institute of Environment at FIU, USA

                                   Opening Statements by International WIS-16 Partner Organizers:
                                      Andres Sanchez, Sustainable Development Specialist, Organization of
                                   American States (OAS)

                                   Miguel Doria, Regional Hydrologist for Latin America and the Caribbean,

                                       KEYNOTE SESSION

                                    Moderator: Maria C. Donoso, WIS-16 Organizing Committee Chair, USA

                                   KEYNOTE 1: Cybersecurity, an Integral Part of Water Security?
                                   Cristian Torres Bermeo, Director General, National Service for Risk and
                                   Emergency Management, Ecuador

                                   KEYNOTE 2: Present Situation and Trends
                                   Alan Wiser, Chief Information Security Officer, US Geological Service, USA

                                   Rapporteur:Francisco Pena, Associate Researcher Florida International
                                   University and University of Perugia

10:30-10:45           BREAK (short video)

                                   SESSION 1: Cybersecurity Policies/Legislation in the Water Sector

                                   Speaker: Kenneth Pugh, Senator, Republic of Chile

                                   Moderator: Cristina Rodriguez-Acosta, Jack Gordon Institute for Public
                                   Policy, SIPA, FIU, USA

                                   Panelists: - Akintunde Owosina, Chief, Hydrology & Hydraulics Bureau,
                                                    South Florida Water Management District, USA
                                                    - Ariel Nowersztern, Cybersecurity specialist , Inter-American
                                                     Development Bank, USA
                                                    - Alejandra Pineda Villegas, CEO Business Technology &
                                                    Consulting, member of WOMCY-LATAM, Mexico

                                   Rapporteur: Valeria Perez, Water Management and Public Administration
                                   Professional, Member of the Board of FUNSINCOPA

                                   SESSION 2: Water Information Systems: Data Quality and Security

                                   Speaker: Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security,                                                         CoFounder & Executive Chairman, The Chertoff Group, USA

                                   Moderator: Nick Aumen, Regional Science Advisor for the Southeast
                                   Region of the US Geological Survey, USA

                                   Panelists: - Adrian Cashman, CEO, AKWATIX: Water Resources
                                                    Management, Barbados
                                                    - Felipe Cisneros, Director of the Program for Water and Soil,
                                                    University of Cuenca, Ecuador
                                                    - Patricia Aquing, Caribbean Water and Environmental
                                                    Specialist, Trinidad and Tobago

                                   Rapporteur: Amartya Saha, Ecohydrologist and Instrumentation Specialist,
                                   Achbold Biological Station, USA

                                   Special Presentation
                                   Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr., Mona Geo-Informatics Institute, University of West
                                   Indies, Jamaica

Day 2                         DECEMBER 9, 2021

                                  SESSION 3: Monitoring and Expanding Diverse Participation in
                                  Cybersecurity in the Water Sector

                                  Speaker: Gema Landaverde, Red Team and Threat Intelligence Senior
                                  Manager – FICO, Representative of WOMCY- LATAM, Mexico

                                  Moderator: Suzanna Rose, Founding Associate Provost, Office to Advance
                                  Women, Equity & Diversity FIU, USA

                                  Panelists: - Fernando Nardi, Director WARREDOC, Università per Stranieri
                                  di Perugia, Italy
                                                   - Kay Goss, Former FEMA Associate Director, University of
                                                   Nevada at Las Vegas & Metropolitan College of New York, USA
                                                   - Silvia Rafaelli, Instituto Nacional del Agua, Subgerencia Centro
                                                   Regional Litoral, Argentina

                                  Rapporteur: Maria F. Pulido, Associate Researcher, UNESCO Chair on
                                  Sustainable Water Security, Colombia

                                  SESSION 4: Water Security in the Era of Covid-19: Providing Secure
                                  Information Systems

                                  Speaker: Fernando Mendez, Associate Professor, Universidad de
                                  Cantabria, Spain

                                  Moderator: Zelmira May, Program Specialist for Education, Regional
                                  Office of Sciences for Latin America and the Caribbean,
                                  UNESCO, Uruguay

                                  Panelists: - Glaister Cunningham, Vice President, Investment and
                                                    Performance Monitoring, National Water Commission, Jamaica
                                                   - Roberto Parra Saldivar, Profesor Investigador, Centro de
                                                   Biotecnología – FEMSA, Tecnologico de Monterrey. México
                                                   - Himanshu Upadhyay, Principal Scientist in Cybersecurity and
                                                   Artificial Intelligence, Applied Research Center, FIU, USA

                                   Rapporteur: Serena Hoermann - Assistant Director, Center for Urban and
                                   Environmental Solutions (CUES), FAU

11:00-11:15            BREAK

                                   SESSION 5 : Educational Profile of the Water Professionals of the Future

                                   Speaker: - Fernando González Villarreal, Regional Center on Water
                                   Security under the auspices of UNESCO, Mexico

                                   Moderator: Adrian Cashman CEO, AKWATIX: Water Resources
                                   Management, Barbados

                                   Panelists: - Luis Dominguez Granda, Director of the Water and Sustainable
                                                    Development Center, ESPOL, Ecuador
                                                    - Alex Crowther, Department of Criminal Justice, Gordon
                                                    Institute, FIU, USA
                                                    - Carlos Leonardo, Director Nacional de Respuesta a Incidentes
                                                    Cibernéticos (CSIRT-RD). Centro Nacional de Ciberseguridad,
                                                    Dominican Republic

                                   Rapporteur: Soledad Benitez, Programme Associate UNESCO IHP-LAC,

                                   CLOSING SESSION: Integrating Cybersecurity to Water Security

                                   Speaker: Alfonso Gutierrez, Regional Coordinator for the UNESCO
                                   International Flood Initiative, Mexico

                                   Moderator: Max Campos, Former Water Senior Specialist and Division
                                   Chief on Integrated Water Resources Management,
                                   Organization of American States (OAS), Costa Rica

                                   Panelists: - Roberto Olivares, President of the Latin America Network of
                                                    Water Basin Organisms (LANBO), Mexico
                                                    - Leonardo Alfonso, Associate Professor, IHE Delft, The

                                   Rapporteur: Gabriela Castrellon – Researcher, Universidad Tecnologica de
                                   Panama – CIHH, Panama

                                   FINAL REMARKS

                                   Summary of event: Leonard Berry Emeritus Professor of
                                   Geosciences, Florida Atlantic University, USA

                                   Path forward: Maria Concepcion Donoso, WIS-16 Organizing
                                   Committee Chair, Panama

                                   Closing Remarks: Basil Fernandez, President, Water Web Consortium,

* Please note that all times are in the Eastern Time (US) time zone.