The Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) is a coalition formed in 2007 to help water and wastewater utilities prepare for the impacts of climate change. WUCA is dedicated to collaborating on climate change issues affecting drinking water utilities. Members are located throughout the United States from southern California to New York City. Some of these members are now engaged in the Piloting Utility Modeling Applications for Climate Change project, which seeks to identify the best climate modeling tools and data to assist utilities respond to climate change.
Climate change is expected to impact the hydrological cycle; in response, water resource managers are trying to prepare and adapt systems to climate change. In the past, water resource managers relied upon historical water data to plan the following year’s water distribution. However, due to climate change, the past will no longer be a good indication of the future. To help prepare for the impacts of climate change, a coalition was created to exchange ideas and to organize efforts to address future issues in water resources management.
In January 2007, the San Francisco Public Utilities hosted the first WUCA symposium in San Francisco, California. The symposium was attended by over 200 water and wastewater utility representatives from government, private sector, and environmental groups. The purpose of the symposium was to help participants better understand the impacts of climate change on water resources and related issues. Members of the WUCA include the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Portland Water Bureau, San Diego County Water Authority, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Seattle Public Utilities, Southern Nevada Water Authority, and Tampa Bay Water.
WUCA is working with leaders from Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program and other scientists on a new project: Piloting Utility Modeling Applications for Climate Change (PUMA). PUMA's objectives are to:
- Identify climate modeling tools and techniques for selected WUCA members that are prepared to conduct impact assessments for their systems.
- Identify how to use downscaled climate data in planning.
- Acquire climate data that can be used by WUCA members in impacts assessments, water planning, and decision making.
Five WUCA utilities are currently engaged in the PUMA project: Tampa Bay Water, Seattle Public Utilities, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and the Portland Water Bureau. This project includes two workshops, one of which was held in December 2010 to gather representatives to discuss available climate modeling tools and data that are most beneficial to utilities.
Project Outcomes and Conclusions
One of the major issues facing water utilities is their ability to project changes within their watershed and then develop adaptive management techniques to adjust to changes due to climate change. WUCA is partnering with the climate science community to develop downscaled climate models that are able to more accurately predict changes in the hydrological cycle at the sub-basin scale. In order to adapt, utilities need to know what to adapt to. As part of this goal, WUCA has released two white papers on this topic: Options for Improving Climate Modeling to Assist Water Utility Planning for Climate Change and Decision Support Planning Methods: Incorporating Climate Change Uncertainties into Water Planning.
Feifel, K. & Gregg, R. M. (2010). Water Utility Climate Alliance [Case study on a project of the Water Utility Climate Alliance]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/water-utility-climate-alliance (Last updated July 2011)