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EPA's Climate Ready Water Utility Initiative

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Climate change impacts pose challenges to drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater (water sector) utilities in fulfilling 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 scenario of climate change challenges that have potentially significant implications for the sustainability of the water sector. While the potential impacts of climate change on water and wastewater utilities have been well documented, there has not been a focused effort to build the water sector's capacity for climate change adaptation.

In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (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.
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Keywords: Adaptation; Climate change; EPA; long-term planning; risk assessment

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2011

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