Climate change is affecting the water sector by altering the water cycle and weather patterns. Extreme events such as droughts, heatwaves, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires are increasing in severity and frequency, posing critical risks to drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities. The Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) advances climate change adaptation, planning, and decision-making to ensure that water utilities, and the communities they serve, can thrive in the face of these emerging challenges.
WUCA leverages collective utility experiences to develop leading practices in climate change adaptation and mitigation that are actionable, equitable, and serve as a model for others.
We collaborate, with each other and our partners, to enable water utilities to respond to climate change impacts on utility functions and operations to protect our water systems today and into the future.
WUCA and US Water Alliance host Climate Action Learning Lab at One Water Summit
As a part of the One Water Summit, WUCA and the US Water Alliance partnered to host a Learning Lab that brought together utilities, community organizations, and others across the water sector to explore opportunities for scaling equitable and just water-focused climate action within their communities. Attendees heard stories and best practices from utility and community partners in Philadelphia, Portland, and Raleigh, with contributions from WUCA Members, the Philadelphia Water Department, and the Portland Water Bureau. These presentations underscored the importance of meaningful and equitable community-based data collection, visioning, and planning.
WUCA Chair Joins White House Climate Resilience Summit
WUCA Chair, and Portland Water Bureau's lead climate expert, Kavita Heyn recently participated in the first-ever White House Summit on Building Climate Resilient Communities, representing the climate resilience work of water agencies, including the Water Utility Climate Alliance.
The summit, announced by President Biden earlier this summer, will convene approximately 70 climate resilience practitioners from local, state, Tribal and other entities who are demonstrating leadership in their respective fields.
2023 Water Utility Climate Alliance GM meeting recap
Recently, members from across the country attended the Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) Annual General Manager (GM) Business Meeting held in San Diego, California this year. The primary goal of the meeting is to seek GM approval for the proposed CY 2024 workplan and budget. The 2024 budget request, which was unanimously approved, includes projects such as developing a Climate Resilient Engineering Design Guidance for the most common water infrastructure projects (i.e., pump stations), generating a Frequently Asked Questions document for water managers on using the latest climate data, partnering in a global sea level rise peer-sharing coalition, developing guidance on federal greenhouse gas mitigation funding, and completing WUCA’s equity roadmap.
The annual meeting was also an opportunity to discuss top climate change adaptation and mitigation challenges, priorities, and experiences from the 12 WUCA utilities, and hear from staff about WUCA accomplishments over the prior year. A key theme raised by utility leaders is the tremendous amount of federal funding available for climate resilience and mitigation (more than $500B over a decade), and the desire to access this funding and challenges in accessing it. While some utilities reported that they were awarded federal grants to implement climate resilience grey and green infrastructure, the need far outweighs funding to date, and this highlights the ongoing challenge of investing in climate resilient infrastructure. WUCA will continue to evaluate these challenges and others to help the water sector continue to prepare, invest, and adapt.
Key messages from WUCA
Warming is here and now. Climate adaptation planning is not just about the future. Water utilities are experiencing the effects of a changing climate on their water resources today.
Know your system and explore its vulnerabilities. Assess your water system to identify vulnerabilities. Risks can only be reduced if they are identified.
Plan for multiple futures. Predicting the future is not feasible but anticipating plausible warmer future climates is. Prepare to face a variety of scenarios.
Capacity building and assessment are part of the adaptation equation. Developing the technical and managerial expertise to identify and assess climate risks to a system is as much a part of adaptation as the steps taken to implement risk reduction measures.