Delivering reliable, high-quality water requires a delicate balance between water supplies and customer demands.
While water managers continually strive to maintain this supply-and-demand balance through long-term water resources planning and demand management, new challenges exist due to the impacts of climate change, putting the world's water resources at risk.
The Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) is dedicated to enhancing climate change research and improving water management decision-making to ensure that water utilities will be positioned to respond to climate change and protect our water supplies.
Water utilities on the front line of climate change
Two white papers recently released by the Water Utility Climate Alliance feature case studies of water utilities addressing the threat of climate change. These white papers advance understanding of how the relatively new enterprise of climate change assessment and adaptation is developing. They also provide feedback from the front lines of climate change planning to guide future investment in this rapidly growing field of inquiry.
The PUMA project features four water utilities (New York, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Portland) working in collaboration with local climate science consortiums to hand-pick or develop locally appropriate tools, projections and approaches to understand the impact of climate change on drinking water supplies.
These utilities pursued customized approaches based on specific utility needs and learned important lessons in conducting assessments that may be of interest to the wider adaptation community. In addition, these projects attempted to create a "climate services" environment in which utility managers worked collaboratively and iteratively with climate scientists to understand utility concerns as well as the ability or limitations of today's climate science to respond to those concerns.
Climate change has emerged as one of the greatest challenges facing water utilities' planning for the future, adding a new source and level of complexity that is forcing many agencies to re-examine their decision-making processes. A significant barrier for many agencies is figuring out how to consider highly uncertain climate information and move away from deterministic thinking to make climate-informed decisions.
To provide water professionals with practical and relevant information, the Water Utility Climate Alliance teamed up with the Amercian Water Works Association, in coordination with the Water Research Foundation and Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, to develop a white paper sharing insights into how and why water agencies are modifying planning and decision-making processes. The 13 case studies presented illustrate the variety of ways in which utilities are incorporating climate change into planning, from immediate operational decisions, to capital planning and asset management, to long-term supply planning.
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Download it here.