Beyond Barriers to Implementation: a Water Sector Perspective on Sea Level Rise Adaptation

Kathryn Braddock, Abby Sullivan, Rachel M. Gregg, Miranda Cashman
Posted on: 9/30/2022 - Updated on: 10/10/2022

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Kathryn Braddock



Beyond Barriers to Implementation: a Water Sector Perspective on Sea Level Rise Adaptation was developed to provide tangible, replicable practices to help water utility staff and water resource managers advance adaptation efforts in the face of climate change. Sea level rise adaptation is context-specific (e.g., by location, by asset, and by system), and while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to adaptation, there are principles—or leading practices—that may help water sector practitioners move towards on-the-ground implementation.

There are many barriers that prevent adaptation implementation. The most frequently cited adaptation barriers include governance, financial, technical, and social/cultural barriers. These barriers, and suggested strategies to overcome them, are used to frame the content of this guide.

This guide is the outcome of a multi-year Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) project designed to identify leading practices— recognizing that in this emerging dynamic field, “best practices” have yet to be established—to overcome these barriers. EcoAdapt and WUCA have collaborated to create this guide to provide tangible, real-world examples and help identify opportunities for the advancement of sea level rise adaptation measures.

Expertise on adaptation options, common barriers to implementation, and opportunities for advancing action was solicited via a scientific and gray (e.g., white papers, agency reports, and plans) literature review, semi-structured interviews, a practitioner’s forum with over 60 resilience leaders from around the U.S., and from the summation of the lived experience of the following WUCA Sea Level Rise Committee members: Philadelphia Water Department, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Tampa Bay Water, San Diego County Water Authority, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and Seattle Public Utilities.

This Guide:

  • Provides a high-level overview of the general steps required to initiate sea level rise adaptation and includes resources and tools to support each step
  • Details the most frequent challenges encountered when reaching the point of implementation
  • Suggests solutions based on leading practices for overcoming barriers, using real-life examples when possible

Guide Cover Art Design: Mike Ball


Braddock KN, Sullivan A, Gregg RM, Cashman M. 2022. Beyond Barriers to Implementation: A Water Sector Perspective on Sea Level Rise Adaptation.…

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The Water Utility Climate Alliance is dedicated to collaborating on climate change issues affecting drinking water utilities. By enhancing climate change research and developing adaptation strategies, water utilities will be positioned to respond to climate change and protect our water supplies. In January 2007, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission hosted the first national Water Utility Climate Change Summit, which was attended by more than 200 water and wastewater utility executives, government officials, climate change experts and environmental leaders.

EcoAdapt is at the center of climate change adaptation innovation. We provide support, training, and assistance to make conservation and management less vulnerable and more Climate Savvy. Over the past 200 years, great strides have been made in the world of conservation and now all of that is at risk because of climate change. EcoAdapt is working to ensure the success of these past efforts by delivering a framework for climate adaptation.