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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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2017-2021 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 2017-2021; however, it is reviewed annually as part of the work plan development process and updated as needed.

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

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.

2020 Water Utility Climate Alliance Annual Report

This report documents the Water Utility Climate Alliance's 2020 Work Plan progress and provides a list of next steps.

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.

Proceedings of the Water Utility Climate Alliance Piloting Utility Modeling Applications (PUMA) Workshop (2010)

Have a look at the climate models used by WUCA member utilities. Learn the importance of interagency coordination and stakeholder communication during the planning process.

Options for improving climate modeling to assist water utility planning for climate change (2009)

Find out how utilities use models in climate planning. Read about current global climate models (GCMs) and downscaling and discover opportunities for improving them.

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

(Project Manager: Abby Sullivan, Philadelphia Water Department)

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 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 2020 include the following:

  • Leading Practices in Climate AdaptationWUCA will develop a living document that describes best practices in climate adaptation.
  • Communications: WUCA will develop visually compelling climate change and engineering case studies that serve as examples for engineers on how climate change information can be used in various engineering roles.
  • Heat Impacts to Infrastructure and Personnel: A Cost Study: Using five case study utilities, the cost of heat impacts to infrastructure and personnel will be estimated and compared to the costs if preventative steps are taken now.
  • Climate Resilience Training: Refine and implement a training to build a community of smart consumers of climate information proactively pursuing climate adaptation.
  • Business Function Mapping Phase II: WUCA will test the risk and resilience framework developed in Phase I, compare the framework with other frameworks used at water utilities to assess risks, and identify opportunities to accelerate mainstreaming climate considerations and resilience into utility management.
  • Ecosystem Best Practices: Develop a series of workshops and online discussions to explore the intersection between climate change, ecosystem functions and utility services. Develop a white paper helping utilities understand ecosystem management approaches.
  • Scaling and Applying Climate Projections for Stormwater and Wastewater Resilience: Develop a white paper scanning utility needs and established and emerging practices for applying climate projections.
  • Sea Level Rise Best Practices Field Guide: Produce A Field Guide to Sea Level Rise Adaptation for the Water Sector: Moving Beyond the Risk Assessment to Implementation, which will help advance best practices and guidance for adaptation that is specific to sea level rise.

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.