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Climate Ready Water Utilities Program

Created: 12/17/2010 - Updated: 5/08/2019

Photo attributed to McGhiever. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Summary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) Program provides tools and resources for water utilities to prepare for the effects of global climate change. A CRWU Working Group has been created to provide recommendations on the effectiveness of the program. In addition, CRWU provides water utility owners and operators with tools and resources to prepare for climate change.

Background

Climate change is projected to result in increased temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, sea level rise, and changes in water quality and quantity. The water utilities sector (wastewater, stormwater, drinking water) needs to adjust to these potential impacts while protecting the services they provide. The CRWU Program provides the water utilities sector with tools to prepare for climate change by developing adaptation plans.

Implementation

The CRWU Working Group was created in 2009 by the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council. The Working Group consists of 20 members from water utilities, state and local governments, and academic and environmental organizations; in addition, observers at Working Group meetings include representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Working Group is charged with:

  • Defining characteristics of “climate ready” utilities;
  • Identifying climate change-related tools and resources to assist water utilities’ planning efforts; and
  • Determining methods to facilitate adaptation and mitigation by the water sector throughout the United States.

This Working Group will provide recommendations to the National Drinking Water Advisory Council on the potential effectiveness of the CRWU Program in December 2010.

The CRWU Program also offers three sets of tools for water utility owners and operators.

  1. The EPA has developed the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Assessment Tool (CREAT). It is meant to assist utilities in understanding and assessing risks from climate change impacts. Users are guided through an assessment of regional climate change threats and development of associated adaptation strategies. CREAT also provides “a series of risk reduction and cost reports that will allow the user to evaluate various adaptation options as part of long-term planning.” The tool is available to download here.
  2. The CRWU Program has also created the CRWU Toolbox, which provides resources ranging from climate science to mitigation and adaptation strategies. The Toolbox and its contents (Current Activities, Funding Opportunities, Publications and Reports, Tools and Models, Workshops and Seminars) are searchable by:
    1. Region (e.g., Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, etc.)
    2. Water Utility Type (e.g., drinking water, stormwater, wastewater, combined)
    3. Water Utility Size (e.g., small, medium, large, very large)
    4. Water Resource Type (e.g. groundwater, surface water, desalinated water, reclaimed water)
    5. Climate Change Impact (e.g., sea level rise, droughts, flooding, etc.)
    6. Mitigation and Adaptation Response Strategies (e.g. Reduce carbon/water footprints, Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Expand capacity, Develop alternative resources, etc.)
  3. The Tabletop Exercise Tool for Water Systems: Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Climate Resiliency (TTX Tool) was developed to allow users to examine climate change impacts using fifteen scenarios, including natural disasters, human-induced incidents, and climate change impacts. This tool is available by emailing ttxtool@epa.gov.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The CRWU Working Group, established in 2009, is evaluating the potential effectiveness of a climate change response program targeting water utilities and will release its final report and recommendations to the National Drinking Water Advisory Council in December 2010. In the meantime, the CRWU website offers CREAT, the CRWU Toolbox, and the TTX Tool for use by water utility owners and operators.

Status

Information collected through online resources. Last updated December 2010

Citation

Gregg, R. M. (2010). Climate Ready Water Utilities Program [Case study on a project of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/climate-ready-water-utilities-program (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contacts

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of the primary governmental organizations responsible for protecting human health and natural ecosystems. As such EPA plays a major role in the regulation, protection and improvement of water resources and supplies of the United States.

Keywords

Sector Addressed: 
Water Resources
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Flooding
Flow patterns
Precipitation
Public health risks
Public safety threats
Salinization / Saltwater intrusion
Water supply
Water temperature
Climate Type: 
Temperate
Subtropical
Subpolar
Timeframe: 
Ongoing
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Create new institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Invest in / Enhance emergency services planning and training
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Community Planning (developing climate-smart communities)
Effort Stage: 
In progress

Related Resources

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program

Photo attributed to Walter Siegmund. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Aquaculture
Conservation / Restoration
Development (socioeconomic)
Fisheries
Transportation / Infrastructure
Summary: 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program works to build capacity in different National Estuary Programs to prepare for and adapt to climate change. Twelve National Estuary Programs received grants and/or technical assistance in 2008 and 2009.