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Plans and publications

The Water Utility Climate Alliance aims to enhance the quality and accessibility of regional climate change data to help reduce uncertainty and improve water resource planning, promote the development of adaptation strategies, assist overall decision-making efforts and support the development of water-related policies.

The following plans, activities and publications support this objective.

Strategic Plan & Publications

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Cover of Implications of Extreme Heat report
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2022-2026 Strategic Plan

WUCA's Strategic Plan serves as the primary guidance document for the alliance's long-term efforts. The plan was developed by the Strategic Planning Committee, which included staff members from each WUCA agency. It covers a five-year period of 2022-2026; however, it is reviewed annually as part of the work plan development process and updated as needed.

Representing climate change impacts in water demand modeling (2022)

WUCA conducted an informal water demand assessment in 2022 to learn more about how its member agencies address and model projected climate change impacts on future water demands.

Beyond barriers to implementation

A water sector perspective on sea level rise adaptation.

2023 Water Utility Climate Alliance Annual Report

This report documents the Water Utility Climate Alliance's 2023 Work Plan progress and provides a list of next steps.

Improving the Vegetation Representation in Hydrologic Models Alters Hydroclimate Projections

This report illustrates the impact of vegetation changes over the Western U.S.

IT’S HOT, AND GETTING HOTTER: Implications of Extreme Heat on Water Utility Staff and Infrastructure, and Ideas for Adapting (2022)

This report describes the implications of expected increasing temperatures in the U.S. on utility personnel and facilities and provides adaptation and mitigation strategies to address these heat impacts.

Project 4729 - Mapping Climate Exposure and Climate Information Needs to Water Utility Business Functions - Executive Summary (2020)

The goal of this project was to develop a comprehensive, enterprise-level framework for understanding the exposure and sensitivities of water utility business functions to a changing climate and for accelerating the mainstreaming of climate considerations into utility management.

How are WUCA Utilities Communicating About Climate Change? (2017)

WUCA utilities communicate about climate change in different ways, depending on utility goals, local politics and demographics. This report summarizes key findings of a survey of the ten utilities on how they are using and developing climate change messaging for both internal and external audiences.

Co-Producing Actionable Science for Water Utilities Workshop Final Report (2016)

Hear about WUCA's Piloting Utility Modeling Applications (PUMA) Project and ideas generated regarding next steps in developing a water climate services framework at a workshop with over 50 experts from the drinking water, boundary organization, academic, federal agency, and NGO communities.

Climate Risks to Water Utility Built Assets and Infrastructure (2015)

This report describes the lessons learned from a survey that the Portland Water Bureau conducted of 18 national and international water utilities (including 9 WUCA utilities) to understand how climate risks and extreme weather events are affecting utility built assets and infrastructure. The report describes how these utilities are responding by building new infrastructure, replacing or repairing assets, changing operations, and quantifying climate risks to assets.

Actionable Science in Practice: Co-Producing Climate Change Information for Water Utility Vulnerability Assessments: Final Report of the Piloting Utility Modeling Applications (PUMA) Project (2015)

Explore successful partnerships where climate scientists and utility operators throughout the United States apply climate science in resilience planning. Major conclusions include the need for local assessments, the importance of two-way communication and the need for reconciling top-down and bottom-up assessment approaches.

Embracing Uncertainty: A Case Study Examination of How Climate Change is Shifting Water Utility Planning (2015)

See how 13 utilities integrate climate change data into their planning. Discover the importance of public engagement in the planning process and learn the key distinctions between climate projections and predictions.

Decision support planning methods: Incorporating climate change uncertainties into water planning (2010)

Utilities need multiple-outcome planning as they face climate change. Learn about decision support planning methods like classic decision analysis, real options and portfolio planning.

The Influence of Downscaling on Climate Projections (2024)

Global climate projections are often downscaled to evaluate local hydrology, and that process can significantly change the climate signal being evaluated. Dynamical downscaling methods better reflect physical processes, and spatial/temporal climatology expected in the Western U.S.

Cover of report.

Sea Level Rise Adaptation Exchange: Leading Practices for Moving from Assessment to Action

June 23-24, 2021, the WUCA Sea Level Rise (SLR) Committee and their consultant, EcoAdapt, held a virtual forum titled "Sea Level Rise Adaptation Exchange: Leading Practices for Moving from Assessment to Action." The forum gathered over 60 resiliency leaders from around the country to discuss sea level rise adaptation opportunities and barriers, including the unique challenges faced by water utilities and other infrastructure managers.

The forum facilitated peer-to-per knowledge exchange, providing a space for open conversations about the barriers to action while also highlighting case studies with leading practices and tangible solutions.

Each day of the forum kicked off with presentations by WUCA members on their sea level rise adaptation efforts followed by case studies from Miami-Dade, Virginia Beach, Boston and San Francisco illustrating leading practices and lessons learned. Both days concluded with facilitated breakout sessions organized by the barriers to implementation: technical, financial, social/cultural and governance.

The forum was part of a larger project called A Field Guide to Sea Level Rise Adaptation for the Water Sector: Moving Beyond Risk Assessment to Implementation, intended to document the leading practices in SLR adaptation for the water sector. Building on the WUCA Leading Practices project, this effort focuses on a specific climate stressor—sea level rise—and a specific part of the adaptation process—implementation. The final product will serve as a guide to help utilities and their municipalities advance SLR adaptation efforts and address barriers to implementation.

(Project Manager: Abby Sullivan, Philadelphia Water Department)

Project 5056 - An Enhanced Climate-Related Risks and Opportunities Framework and Guidebook for Water Utilities Preparing for a Changing Climate

Between 2019–2021, Denver Water and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) collaborated to test, update, and refine the Mapping Climate-Related Risks and Opportunities to Water Utility Business Functions Framework through a series of internal, interactive tabletop exercises (TTX). This guidebook is a supplement to the framework intended for water utility business function leads to use as they begin to assess the climate-related risk and opportunities associated with their critical business functions.

Note: This guidebook is an update to the 2020 supplemental guidebook to Mapping Climate Exposure and Climate Information Needs to Water Utility Business Functions, where seven U.S.-based water utilities co-created a comprehensive, enterprise-level framework to help business function leads understand the exposure and sensitivities of their business functions in a changing climate.

Project 4729 - Mapping Climate Exposure and Climate Information Needs to Water Utility Business Functions

The goal of this project was to develop a comprehensive, enterprise-level framework for understanding the exposure and sensitivities of water utility business functions to a changing climate and for accelerating the mainstreaming of climate considerations into utility management. The water utility business risk and opportunity framework was designed to be replicable for use by a range of utility sizes, impacts, and functions. Though this framework specifically focused on drinking water utilities, its approach has broader applicability across a variety of utilities.

Work Plan

Using the 5-year Strategic Plan and an assessment of prior-year accomplishments as guidance, WUCA staff develops a work plan reflecting current priorities for the upcoming year. Priorities for 2024 include the following:

  • Advancing Water Equity and Climate Resilience: WUCA, along with the U.S. Water Alliance, will co-develop an Equity Framework and Roadmap, a set of recommended strategies to help incorporate equity into WUCA and member climate adaptation and mitigation efforts and co-develop equitable climate solutions for the water sector, focusing on a suite of case studies on climate and water equity.
  • Climate Resilient Engineering Design Guidance: WUCA will develop a list of practical, tangible, Climate Resilient Design Guidance strategies for a range of water utility engineering, infrastructure, and capital projects, and develop a climate risk hazard matrix that describes common climate risks, impacts and climate hazards that water systems are facing. WUCA will develop a list of 15-20 practical clearly-defined Climate Resilient Design Guidance options/strategies that can be integrated into the climate risk matrix to redesign infrastructure for those impacts.
  • Greenhouse Gas Mitigation (GHG) Community of Practice, Inflation Reduction Act Guide/FAQ + Continuation of GHG Case Studies: WUCA will complete an assessment and develop a guidance document on Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) programs and tax credits available to water utilities to fund GHG mitigation projects. WUCA will build on WUCA's prior GHG Mitigation Case Studies by collecting and publishing results from utilities implementing key mitigation projects of interest; and advance GHG mitigation efforts at water utilities through collaborative learning, thereby supporting efforts to reduce water sector emissions and address long-term climate impacts.
  • CMIP6 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Water Managers and Planners: WUCA will develop a FAQs white paper for water managers with different levels of experience with CMIP6 data sets, with 5-10 FAQs with easily digestible responses to aid the use and interpretation of CMIP6 data sets by water managers, with a focus on the continental United States.
  • Climate Resilience Training: Refine and implement training to build a community of smart consumers of climate information proactively pursuing climate adaptation.
  • Leveraging Climate Modeling to Produce Precipitation Intensity-Duration-Frequency Curves: WUCA will develop a prototype for sustained collaboration between utilities and climate modelers to produce precipitation projections that go beyond statistical downscaling; and partner with a number of entities to scope an approach to replicate work completed by San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to model large-scale storm events and to develop projections for New York City and Philadelphia.
  • Practitioner Exchange for Effective Response to Sea Level Rise (PEERS): WUCA will become a member of PEERS to guide program objectives and build on work of the 2022 WUCA Sea Level Rise Committee by continuing to share experiences and learn from each other. This work will explore challenges and opportunities associated with relying on Nature-based Solutions and Ecosystem Based Adaptation to sea level rise.
  • Making the Case for Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure and Supporting Strategies: In partnership with the Water Research Foundation, develop water sector-specific guidance and a framework on how to make the case for investments in climate-resilient stormwater/wastewater/drinking water infrastructure, considering both structural (i.e., physical assets) and non-structural approaches (i.e., codes and standards). WUCA will strive to apply the guidance to at least one water utility infrastructure project.
  • Water Demand Forecasting: WUCA will continue to facilitate peer to peer learning sessions focused on water demand modeling, and how climate change is integrated into demand forecasting and long-range water resource planning.
  • External Engagement: Partnerships and National Reports: On an as needed basis, WUCA will review and provide comments on critical national adaptation efforts and federal climate reports and communicate with water sector associations and other partners on positions.
  • WUCA Network: WUCA will continue to foster engagement with utility collaborators outside of WUCA to create a community of climate adaptation knowledge transfer and sharing and share WUCA products and knowledge with peer utilities and network members.
  • Learning From Each Other (LFEO): WUCA will continue to host webinars to learn about emerging science, what others in the sector are doing to address and adapt to climate change, and about how member utilities and practitioners are using climate information. WUCA will strive to bring in new and diverse voices to these conversations to support integration of equity in WUCA webinars.
  • Sustain the Coalition: WUCA will continue to organize small group discussions and peer sharing between WUCA staff members outside of the regular meeting schedule and at annual staff meetings to facilitate relationship building.

Member agency resources

Austin Water

Central Arizona Project

Denver Water

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

New York Department of Environmental Protection

Philadelphia Water Department

San Diego County Water Authority

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Seattle Public Utilities

Southern Nevada Water Authority

Tampa Bay Water

Additional articles

Below, please find a list of articles on the subject of climate change.