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Confronting Climate Change: An Early Analysis of Water and Wastewater Adaptation Costs

Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies
Created: 10/27/2009 - Updated: 3/14/2019


The effects of climate change are already impacting our water and wastewater utilities- those entities entrusted with supplying our communities, our industries, and our natural environment with essential water management services. 

Water is the most important natural resource necessary for stable economic growth, as well as for human and environmental health.  Our nation's water and wastewater infrastructure enables our prosperity by delivering clean water to our homes and industires and by transporting wastewater for treatment.  Our increasing undestanding of climate change impacts on water and wastewater suggest that significant adaptation measures will be required for our infrastructure to continue protecting public health and the environment.

This assessment has three objectives:

  • to characterize the impacts of climate change on drinking water and wastewater services in the United States through 2050, based on GHG scenarios and regional projections of climate change effects;
  • to help policy makers and the water and wastewater sector begin to understand the challenges of ensuring that reliable water and wastewater services continue to be available in the face of a changing climate; and
  • to provide early cost estimates so that policies can be developed that address these challenges and planning by utulities can begin.

The time period was selected because it represents the timeframe within which we best understand climate change effects and their impacts on drinking water and wastewater utilities, and it is consistent with the typical planning horizon of many utilities.  This assessment indicates that the cost to utilities could range from $448 billion to $944 billion.

Published On

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Water Resources
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Public health risks
Public safety threats
Water quality
Water supply
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Conduct vulnerability assessments and studies
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Stormwater systems: retrofitting and improvements
Water supply: retrofitting and improvements
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations