Climate Ready Water Utilities Adaptation Strategies Guide for Water Utilities

EPA prepared this Guide as part of its Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative. The Guide presents the projected climate change impacts and adaptation options for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utility, for nine regions across the U.S. Detailed examples of adaptation strategies are provided, including those from utilities which have successfully implemented adaptation strategies.

The Guide is developed in an interactive interface which allows readers to design their own adaptation strategies and planning approach, while choosing their own method to navigate it. A “Worksheet for Adaptation Planning” is provided to allow users to compile the information in this Guide and to tailor it to their need. The Worksheet lets users track the challenges and impacts faced by their water utility and potential adaptation strategies.

The Guide begins with a broad description of adaptation planning and its many benefits, including the way that adaptation strategies can be incorporated into asset management, capacity development, and decision-making processes. Three types of adaptation strategies are detailed: planning strategies, operational strategies, and capital/infrastructure studies.

The report describes the importance of conducting risk assessments and adopting a decision-support framework, followed by an outline of the general steps of the adaptation planning process. The Guide advocates that utilities move away from an assumption of relatively stable conditions and accept the unstable future of climate change, offering information about confronting climate-related uncertainty and the benefits of No Regrets adaptation options.

The Guide provides three different types of informational briefs to guide utility owners to potential adaptation strategies which best fit their needs, resources, and climate challenges:

  1. Climate Region Briefs: Each outlines projected changes to the climate in one of nine regions with a table of related to climate challenges which links to the Challenge Briefs.
  2. Strategy Briefs:  Each provides information on a particular impact, potential adaptation strategies, relative cost information, and an implementation example from a utility.
  3. Group Briefs: These are divided into five climate impact groups: drought, flood, water quality degradation, ecosystem changes, and service demand and use. Each Brief contains a list of recommended adaptation options tailored to that climate impact.
  4. Sustainability Briefs: Each describes how sustainability measures can be integrated into adaptation planning. Three topics are covered: green infrastructure, energy management, and water demand management. 

EPA's Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) initiative seeks to help drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities address the impacts of climate change. EPA develops practical tools and promotes understanding of climate science and adaptation options.




Publication Date: February 2015

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