Looking Forward: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate - National Action Plan Update

The federal Interagency Water Resources and Climate Change Workgroup National Action Plan Update addresses integrating climate resilience into water resource management. Looking Forward: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate reviews the highest priority actions that Workgroup member agencies are planning to address in the next several years. General recommendations and priority actions are outlined for the key areas of: Data and Research; Planning and Decision Support; Training and Outreach; and Management and Coordination. This report updates the Workgroup’s 2011 National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate, and reviews the progress that federal agencies engaged in water resources management have made to address climate change and the recommendations of the 2011 plan.  

Appendix D: Summary of Strategic Actions and Lead Agencies lists all of the Action Plan’s strategic actions and lead Agencies.

Data and Research: The Workgroup finds that fisheries and hydro-climate data systems networks need to be improved, in terms of spatial and temporal coverage, water supply data, and climate trends. With a priority of advancing science-based information, technology and tools to integrate climate resilience into federal agency operations, the Workgroup recommends a focus here on four key areas:

  1. Sustain and expand existing monitoring networks and data collection on hydrologic and meteorological conditions and water demand;
  2. Modernize statistical analyses of observational data sets to improve understanding of emerging trends associated with climate change;
  3. Improve reliability and accessibility of water-related projections of future conditions; and
  4. Enhance water supply through innovative technologies.

Planning and Decision SupportThis chapter highlights recommendations and strategic actions to integrate climate change considerations into freshwater resources management. Focusing on the need to support community efforts to enhance climate resilience, facilitate co-production of knowledge and tools, and integrate climate resilience into federal agency missions, among other priorities, the Workgroup recommends the following:

  1. Advance regional coordination among federal water resource management agencies to support climate change adaptation and resilience efforts;
  2. Develop guidance and provide assistance to communities and water resource managers on use of climate change information and tools for assessing vulnerability and building resilience.

Training and OutreachFederal and non-federal decision makers are in need of better understanding of how to use climate and hydrological data, information, and tools. The Workgroup is suggesting streamlined access, guidance on best practices, and to make these tools easier to use. The Workgroup will focus attention in three key areas that advance capacity to apply science-based information; integrate climate resilience into federal agency missions and operations; and support communities to enhance resilience:

  1. Increase involvement in the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit Water Resource Management Theme;
  2. Support and enhance the Climate Change and Water Working Group Professional Development Series; and
  3. Engage State Water Resource Research Institutes on Building Climate Resilience.

Workgroup Management and CoordinationRecognizing resource constraints while expanding the range of Workgroup activities underway, it remains a priority to:

  1. Ensure effective support for the Workgroup to maintain continuity of interagency collaboration and leadership on climate change adaptation among federal water resource agencies; and
  2. Expand collaboration and communication with partners and stakeholders.


Since its inception in 2009, the Workgroup has been co-chaired by CEQ, USGS, and the EPA and has had active participation of six to eight other agencies concerned with the impacts of climate change on water resources. Workgroup participants include water resources experts from several federal agencies including the Department of the Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Department of Agriculture.  In addition, at least a dozen professional associations and non-profit groups are workgroup members.


Publication Date: November 2016

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  • Plans (other)
  • Planning guides
  • Policy analysis/recommendations


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