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EPA's Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) Initiative

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Drinking water and wastewater utilities face many challenges due to variation in climate conditions and resulting impacts on the hydrologic cycle. These challenges can impact utility management and operations in many ways by nullifying previous assumptions, damaging infrastructure, and compromising water resource quality and quantity; and generally include the following: shorter infrastructure lifespans due to flooding and sea level rise; water quality degradation and treatment complications; seasonal and inter-annual drought; and combined sewer overflows due to intense precipitation events. These factors pose current risks to water sector operations and infrastructure and may be further exacerbated due to changing climatic conditions.

Responding to this challenge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) has developed the Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) initiative to help drinking water and wastewater utilities adapt to climate change by providing a clear understanding of climate science and adaptation options. The CRWU initiative has previously delivered several tools and resources which are available on the CRWU website including: the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT), a risk assessment tool for drinking water and wastewater utilities; and the CRWU Toolbox, a database of freely-accessible climate change- and water-related resources. Through applications of CREAT and updates to the CRWU Toolbox, the initiative has advanced climate adaptation planning and gained feedback from the water sector on how to raise awareness and encourage action from utilities.

The CRWU initiative is currently building off these successes to provide additional support for the water sector in the form of updated tools, easy-to-understand informational materials, and collaborative projects. Specifically, the CRWU initiative is (1) developing a second version of CREAT to include more data on extreme events and location-specific climate scenarios; (2) facilitating watershed-scale applications of this risk assessment tool between estuaries and utilities; (3) distributing an Adaptation Strategies Guide that provides threat-specific adaptation options for consideration by utilities; and (4) developing an extreme weather workshop tool to aid in stakeholder engagement for adaptation planning.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2012

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