Rounds introduces two bills to ramp up cybersecurity for rural water systems

Two bipartisan bills offered by U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) would address vulnerabilities in America’s rural water systems by providing updated cyber defenses and technical assistance.

“Our communities are the foundation of what makes South Dakota a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Sen. Rounds said on Sept. 15. “It is crucial that people living in those communities can go about their daily lives without interruption.”

Sen. Rounds and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) on July 19 introduced both the Cybersecurity for Rural Water Systems Act, S. 2388, and the Food and Agriculture Industry Cybersecurity Support Act, S. 2393.

If enacted, S. 2388 would update and expand the Circuit Rider Program to assess the cybersecurity of small water and wastewater utilities, develop protocols to enhance cyber defenses, and provide assistance to improve cyber protections, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

The bill has garnered support from the South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems, the National Rural Water Association, and CyberSolarium 2.0.

Meanwhile, S. 2393 would establish a food and agriculture cybersecurity clearinghouse in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), according to the text of the bill, which is supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the International Fresh Produce Association.

Specifically, S. 2393 would create a specialized hub within the NTIA to help agricultural producers secure technology, equipment and hardware to protect their operations, and would create a hotline for industry-specific advice and best practices to adhere to cybersecurity issues, the summary says.

“These two pieces of bipartisan legislation would help make certain water systems have adequate cyber protection and would provide farmers and ranchers with expanded access to cybersecurity resources,” said Sen. Rounds. “I am pleased to join Sen. Cortez Masto to introduce these bills that would work to protect our communities across the state.”

Rep. Cortez Masto said that as the threat of cyberattacks continues to increase, rural Americans must be ensured that their communities and businesses are protected.

“My bipartisan bills will provide rural water systems, farmers, and ranchers with necessary resources to fend off cyber criminals trying to hack into the technology that supports our food and water supply,” said the congresswoman. “I will continue fighting to support the rural Nevada businesses and families who are so essential to our state.”