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Hello and welcome to the new “Climate Change and Water Utilities” blog.  Here you will find information on current Water Research Foundation activities related to climate change such as results from on-going studies, new RFPs etc.  Climate change information from other organizations will also be shared as long as they are relevant to water utilities.

We will try to make this blog as interesting and informative as possible.  So bookmark this blog, email to a friend/colleague or add our RSS feed, and let’s start sharing information on effects of climate change on water utilities.

 

February 08
Water Quality Impacts of Extreme Weather-Related Events

Climate changes are anticipated to result in the increased frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather-related events.  Typical examples include the increased frequency and severity of hurricanes; however, other events may include prolonged droughts, increases in source water temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns (increases in intensity and/or changes in timing of runoff) (for more information see the Climate Change Clearinghouse website at www.theclimatechangeclearinghouse.org).  Utilities need to understand and anticipate these types of events and their potential impacts on source water quality in order to help them comply with water quality regulations. By identifying the characteristics of extreme weather-related events, better characterizing the impacts of these events on water quality, and documenting the “lessons learned” from such events, it is anticipated that utilities will be better equipped to identify appropriate adaptive and mitigation strategies to lessen vulnerabilities to such events in the future.  In addition, by better understanding potential impacts, it will be possible to better define potential monitoring strategies to document changes in water quality resulting from climate change. 

 

In order to assist utilities with adapting to water quality issues associated with climate change and extreme weather-related events, Water Research Foundation funded project 4324 titled Water Quality Impacts of Extreme Weather-Related Events.  The project will:

 

·         Inventory, categorize, and assess the occurrence of extreme weather-related events affecting participating utilities;

·         Identify and characterize the impacts of extreme weather-related events on source water quality, treatment and distribution processes, and finished water quality;

·         Develop a broadly-applicable Excel-based tool and guidance document to assist large and small utilities with identifying system vulnerabilities, planning for extreme weather-related events, monitoring and documenting such events, and minimizing costs associated with such events; and

·         Develop broad-based findings summaries and recommendations for use by utilities and support entities to understand and adapt to extreme and changing weather, specifically to minimize negative water quality impacts.

 

Project began in February 2011 and scheduled to be completed early 2013. Water Research Foundation subscribers can follow the project progress by visiting

Project 4324 page.

 

If you have any questions on this project or other climate change projects funded by the Foundation, please contact Kenan Ozekin at kozekin@waterrf.org

January 21
Climate Change in Water Utility Planning: Decision Analytic Approaches

Water resource managers have always known that climate is inherently variable, but they have traditionally assumed that natural fluctuations could be modeled as a stable stochastic process with year-to-year variations bounded by an unchanging envelope, as estimated based on recent historic patterns. That assumption is no longer valid.  It has become increasingly clear that rising greenhouse gas concentrations are already causing changes in the Earth’s climate. Future global warming will be closely linked to changes in the hydrologic cycle, with inevitable and substantial impacts on precipitation processes, snow-melt timing, evapotranspiration, streamflow and other water resource variables.  While this makes it more difficult to plan, it is not too early to begin considering the potential effects of, and adaptation to, climate change when developing long-run resource management strategies and plans for infrastructure investment.

 

Water Research Foundation Project 3132 - Climate Change in Water Utility Planning: Decision Analytic Approaches was funded to produce a Climate Change “Cookbook” (i.e., a generic list of ingredients and instructions on how to combine them) that would help guide water utilities to incorporate climate change into their strategic and long-term planning process.  The project has engaged a select set of municipal water providers and related regional coordinating bodies in the development of a structured assessment process to facilitate an evaluation of water utility vulnerabilities and response options to prospective climate changes. The project also focused on the problem of planning in the context of uncertainties surrounding the local-scale hydrologic changes that will result from global climate change.  Project final report, published in January 2011, may be only a beginner’s “cookbook,” it is intended to provide useful guidance to other water utilities by describing the structured process and the case study results.

 

Water Research Foundation subscribers can access to the report by clicking on above link or by visiting

Project 3132 page.

 

If you have any questions on this project or other climate change projects funded by the Foundation, please contact Kenan Ozekin at kozekin@waterrf.org

 

Until next time…

 

 

 

January 05
Climate Change Impacts on Regulatory Landscape – Evaluating Opportunities for Regulatory Change

At the time the SDWA and the CWA were established, and in subsequent updates to the legislation and regulations, there was little awareness of the future importance of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions or preparing for a wider range of uncertainties in water supply.  There is a growing recognition that the current US regulatory framework constrains management options related to supply, treatment, and energy use, and that this may have significant ramifications with respect to utilities’ adaptation to climate change and mitigation of greenhouse gases.  Water utilities in the European Union (EU), also recognizing this issue in their regulations, have identified a need to investigate regulatory reform.  There are likely similar constraints and reform opportunities in the US legislative and regulatory framework that have ramifications for applying triple bottom line and life cycle costing principles related to infrastructure decision making.  Conflicting objectives and synergies in US legislation and regulations should be identified in order to develop proposed strategies for change.

Recognizing these challenges, Water Research Foundation funded Project 4239 titled – Climate Change Impacts on Regulatory Landscape – Evaluating Opportunities for Regulatory Change.  To address above challenges, the research team led by Jonathan Gledhill (Policy Navigation Group) proposed following six coordinated tasks

1.      Identify US Legal and Regulatory Constraints in Current and Proposed Policies

2.      Literature Review of Energy Management and Carbon Footprint Impacts for Water and Wastewater Utilities

3.      Gather International Utility and Regulatory Experience

4.      Identify Revisions to Proposed Legislation, Policies, and Regulation and Communicate Opportunities to Project Sponsors

5.      Develop Case Studies to Illustrate Current Constraints and the Need for Flexibility

6.      Validate Findings with Utility Experts

Project began in May 2010 and scheduled to be completed late 2011. Water Research Foundation subscribers can follow the project progress by visiting

Project 4239 page.

If you have any questions on this project or other climate change projects funded by the Foundation, please contact Kenan Ozekin at kozekin@waterrf.org

December 13
Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Management Tools for Climate Change

Assessing and managing climate risk in water utility planning introduces several key challenges:

·         Developing projections of how the climate may change at a scale suitable for water planning;

·          Developing existing planning tools to reflect and evaluate climate change impacts on water management plans; and

·         Accommodating the profound uncertainty that climate change introduces through the development of robust and dynamic risk management strategies. 

Recognizing these challenges, Water Research Foundation funded project 4262 titled “Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Management Tools for Climate Change: Assessing Potential Impacts and Identifying Adaptation Options.”  Project has three distinguished tasks listed below:

1.        Synthesize knowledge on climate risk identification and assessment

2.       Develop a risk assessment and management framework

3.       Pilot testing of climate risk assessment and management framework

Final product of this research project is a framework that will help water utilities to manage risks posed by climate change.  Project began in July 2010 and scheduled to be completed early 2013.  Water Research Foundation subscribers can follow the project progress by visiting Project 4262 page.

If you have any questions on this project or other climate change projects funded by the Foundation, please contact Kenan Ozekin at kozekin@waterrf.org

Until next time…

October 25
Effects of Climate Change on Water Utility Planning Criteria and Design Standards

Current planning criteria and design standards are typically based on climate patterns of the past.  A large body of evidence shows that the climate variability of the future will not be consistent with that of the past.  Changes in the global hydrological cycle can lead to a range of impacts that could be of concern for water utilities.  If not addressed, the planning criteria and design standards being applied today may be inadequate to handle such changes.  Recently published Water Research Foundation report, Effects of Climate Change on Water Utility Planning Criteria and Design Standards (Project 4154), addresses this issue by examining planning and design standards to identify areas of climate change vulnerability.

The project surveyed 24 utilities (mostly located in the Western U.S.) to determine existing planning criteria and design standards.  Most utilities surveyed had performed a climate change vulnerability assessment but were concerned with the reliance on historical data.  They were also concerned with the climate change impacts related to reduced runoff, changes in snowmelt, temperature extremes, poor water quality (for example, increase in algae growth, invasive species, and amount of organics) and greater flood peaks.  The project also reviewed the existing planning criteria and concluded that utilities may need to modify their current planning criteria including water demand forecasting, evaluation of surface water and groundwater sources, evaluation of other sources, and hydrological modeling to address future climate variability due to climate change.  Finally, the project developed a general framework for evaluating the effects of climate change on water utility facility planning and design. The framework contains eight steps to assist utility managers, planners, or engineers identify needed adjustments to their design decisions.  The framework can be applied to either individual facilities or projects and will help utilities to determine adaptation strategies and measures to prepare for climate change. 

Water Research Foundation subscribers can access to the report by clicking on above link.

Until next time…

October 18
Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments

When it comes to climate change, learning from each others’ experience provide water utilities a better understanding of issues and challenges that will come. I have read an excellent report recently published by the USEPA.  The report titled “Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments: A Review of Water Utility Practices” examines and documents the steps taken by eight leading utilities in an attempt to identify the emergent characteristics of water utility climate change vulnerability assessments.  Approaches taken by utilities are classified as “top-down”, model and data driven approach, or “bottom-up”, driven by knowledge of the utility system itself.  Using these two classifications, authors describe various activities done by utilities to incorporate long-term planning.  Authors also describe various sources of climate data used by the utilities including instrumental record, paleoclimate data, literature reviews, and climate projections from global circulation models.

 

Interested parties can access the report via the following link - http://bit.ly/deO0J0

 

Until next time...

 



 

 

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