National Water Infrastructure Adaptation Assessment, Part I: Climate Change Adaptation Readiness Analysis
Buchberger, S., J. Yang, L. Potter, L. Blake, J. Blue, D. Jensen, P. Hertzler, R. Clark, J. McDonald, J. Goodrich, AND W. Grayman. National Water Infrastructure Adaptation Assessment, Part I: Climate Change Adaptation Readiness Analysis. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-15/141, 2016.
Communicate R&D results of past 6 years to science and practical communities on climate change impact on water resource and water infrastructure.
The report “National Water Infrastructure Adaptation Assessment” is comprised of four parts (Part I to IV), each in an independent volume. The Part I report presented herein describes a preliminary regulatory and technical analysis of water infrastructure and regulations in the United States (U.S.) under the climate and socioeconomic changes. Specifically, a nation-wide assessment was conducted to analyze priority issues facing water and wastewater utilities. Utilities’ responses are found to be consistent with those of five similar national assessments conducted by non-EPA organizations. To water utilities and local governments, climate change is not rated as the highest priority, but as an important concern. A lack of actionable science often impedes immediate planning and engineering actions. This Part-I report also describes a regulatory analysis in which the potential impacts of climate change on a set of water and air regulatory programs are evaluated. It is further found that the vulnerability to climate change is compounded by the deterioration of aging water infrastructure that lags behind socioeconomic changes. In summary, the confluence of these factors – climate change, aging water infrastructure, regulatory programs and utility priority setting in water utilities forms a “perfect storm” with implications for desired service functions and long-term sustainability of Nation’s water infrastructure.The other three volumes cover the subjects of climate change impact characterization in different spatiotemporal scales, for which a range of water infrastructure adaptation techniques and methods are presented. Part II of the adaptation report describes the hydroclimatic changes in contiguous U.S. in the next 30-50 years, the time frame common for water infrastructure master planning. The analysis was based on a detailed analysis of long-term (~98 years) precipitation records, hydroclimatic provinces and major climate factors. These datasets, along with climate teleconnection study results, are available to assist climate model projections. Part III of the adaptation report provides datasets, tools and methods aimed to develop actionable science for adaptation. Part IV of the report covers infrastructure adaptation techniques and methods that range from urban-scale adaptive planning to infrastructure engineering for adaptation. Tools and methods are described along with case studies. These technical reports discuss the challenges facing the Nation’s water infrastructure and the ways to improve its sustainability. Major findings are: 1) climate impacts on hydrology and surface water quality are significant demanding for proper adaptation actions in water resource and water infrastructure programs; 2) the nation’s water and wastewater utilities are not well-prepared to act on climate change adaptation, partially because of the lack of actionable climate data and adaptation methods, amendable to well-accepted water engineering practice; 3) climate change adaptation requires usable projections of the impacts for which integrated model-monitoring techniques are outlined for use at watershed scales; and 4) the adaptation methods and tools in urban-scale planning and in system-scale engineering can make the effective adaptation possible even under the uncertainties in future climate and precipitation projections. For managers, policy-makers, and a broader audience, these technical findings and essential information are summarized in a companion synopsis report.