By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online
While its source is still debated at the highest levels of government, the U.S. EPA has made strides to address the prospects of climate change and prepare the frontlines in the water treatment industry.
The culmination of an eight-year effort, the agency has unveiled its National Water Program Climate Adaption Tools, a set of resources designed to enable state and local governments to adapt their drinking and wastewater programs to the challenges presented by rising temperatures, eroding resources, and natural disaster.
“Water is the media through which climate change is having its most immediate impact,” said Mike Shapiro, the principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, during a press meeting at WEFTEC. He went on to describe the following suite, developed by his office along with government agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard.
Climate Ready Estuaries
A guide for making vulnerability assessments of watersheds or coastal areas and then developing action plans for necessary adaptations.
More than a dozen ways to adapt wetland and beach infrastructure as sea levels rise and infrastructure is forced to move inland.
Ways for coastal managers to reduce climate change impact on their systems.
Climate Ready Water Utilities
An assessment tool that evaluates potential impacts of climate change to water treatment facilities, using traditional risk assessment and scenario-based methods. With data input from a user, it can offer advice on how to address regional climate issues like sea level rise, drought, and hurricanes.
An interactive map illustrating the worst-case coastal storm frequency on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, based on the National Hurricane Center’s strike dataset, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood plains, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s SLOSH model. This resource delineates how far different storms are likely to surge.
This map makes the EPA’s projected changes, based on the above CREAT tool, easy to access. By zooming in on a localized area, the user can view projection for annual total precipitation, annual average temperature, precipitation intensity for the “100-year storm,” number of days per year with temperatures above 100 degrees, and sea-level rise for coastal locations.
This comprehensive (139-page) and digitally interactive handbook is meant for water and wastewater utility managers, helping them grasp the climate change impacts their region might face and how they can prepare their systems.
Emergency/Incident Planning, Response, and Recovery
Meant for small to mid-size utilities, this guide follows a four-step process for assessing the threat of flooding and protecting critical assets if such an event were to occur.
A mobile website for water and wastewater utility workers, giving them access to the EPA’s emergency response information (severe weather trackers, response partner contacts, forms for recording damage, and more) to empower field work. This tool is covered in more depth here.
Water Quality Tools
A desktop application for local, state, or national stormwater management. The calculator can estimate runoff at any site in the country and users can project future climate change to test the resiliency of their green infrastructure and stormwater management plans.
The EPA claims the SWMM as the “gold standard,” already utilized around the world for planning, analysis, and design for stormwater runoff, combined and sanitary sewers, and other urban drainage systems. It’s a hydrology-hydraulic water quality simulation model, projecting the quantity and quality of runoff. The CAT add-on applies monthly climate adjustment factors onto historical precipitation and temperature data, estimating impacts of future climate change on stormwater.
Originally launched in 1996, BASINS is an analysis system that incorporates geographical information, national watershed data and models, and several EPA assessment tools. It creates climate change scenarios that answer questions about how weather and climate changes can affect streamflow and water quality endpoints.
Image credit: "Hurricane Jeanne," kakela © 2005, used under an AttributionShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/bysa/2.0/