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EPA's Climate Ready Water Utility Initiative

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Climate change impacts pose a daunting challenge to drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities' (i.e., the water sector's) ability to fulfill their public health and environmental missions. Extreme weather events, sea level rise, shifting precipitation and runoff patterns, temperature changes, and resulting changes in water quality and availability contribute to a complex puzzle of climate change challenges that have potentially significant implications for the sustainability of the water sector. While the potential effects of climate change on water and wastewater utilities have been well documented, there have not been focused efforts to build the capacity of the water sector to adapt to climate change.

The EPA established a Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) initiative to respond to the climate change challenges facing the water sector. Through a collaborative process informed by water sector partners and other federal programs, the CRWU initiative has adopted the mission of helping water utilities prepare for climate change by providing a clear understanding of climate science and adaptation options. Recognizing the remaining uncertainties in climate projections, particularly precipitation and sea level rise, CRWU promotes adaptive planning and has developed decision support tools for water utilities. Despite this uncertainty, climate change impacts have the potential to compromise the ability of water systems to meet their public health and environmental missions, necessitating the integration of climate considerations into long-term utility planning and investments. Through CRWU and other efforts, EPA is helping water sector utilities take initial steps towards identifying no- and low-regrets adaptation strategies and establishing climate resiliency.

Keywords: Adaptation; Climate change; EPA; long-term planning; risk assessment

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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