Adaptive Response Framework for Drinking Water and Wastewater Utilities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Climate Ready Water Utilities Adaptive Response Framework provides guidelines for local water agencies to implement adaptive and mitigating actions to build climate readiness and increased resilience to climate change. The Framework promotes adaptive management, in which agencies can actively respond to the changes and uncertainties of climate data and climate science.

The resource is organized around the following six categories:

  • Climate Impact Awareness
  • Adaptation Strategies
  • Federal and State Policies and Programs
  • Mitigation Strategies
  • Community Interest and Support
  • Partnerships Outside of the Utility

Within each area, the document provides a summary of why this category was included, key concepts for water utility managers to consider, and potential actions utilities can take to better prepare.

For example, within the category adaptation strategies, the resource recommends incremental improvements towards a long-term goal to increase flexibility in the face of uncertain climate projections. Adaptation strategies should also be incorporated into existing plans and investments.

The Adaptation strategies suggested include:

  • Leverage current awareness of climate change to identify short- and long-term challenges.
  • Conduct a climate change risk assessment for your utility and gauge projected capacity to provide service under changing climate conditions.
  • Examine actions undertaken by similar utilities
  • to better understand how adaptation can be incorporated into on-going planning and operations.
  • Determine adaptation options to reduce system vulnerability.
  • Discuss options with stakeholders and the community to inform decision-making processes.
  • Implement and monitor performance of adaptation options to inform periodic evaluations and adjustments.

The Framework stresses partnerships and coordination. It recommends consideration of current federal, state, and local policies and regulations in order to ensure compliance and find opportunities to take advantage of incentive programs. It encourages engaging the community and other stakeholders to promote increased resiliency and the generation of new ideas and public support.


Publication Date: November 2012

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  • Planning guides

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