Launch Slideshow

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Better Safe than sorry

Better Safe than sorry

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    San Francisco's sewer system master plan is being designed to protect the city's sewer system against the rising tides of the next 30 years. One short-term option is to retrofit outfalls with duckbill valves that protect against backflow. Photo: Tideflex Technologies

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    Carollo Engineers examined local surface water supplies, irrigation demands, and sea-level rise as part of Santa Barbara, Calif.'s water supply planning study. The study looked at precipitation trends to determine whether to modify surface water supply management to accommodate increased variability brought by climate change. At this time, Santa Barbara will continue current operations management while tracking precipitation patterns for future planning. Photo: City of Santa Barbara, Calif.

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    San Francisco flooding on the riseThis chart maps historical monthly mean higher high water (MHHW) levels relative to the San Francisco city datum and estimated 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections of future high tides. Long before the projections of even higher tides exceed the weir levels, flooding will occur. For a larger version of this graph, visit the “article links” page under “resources” at www.pwmag.com. Source: Carollo Engineers

  • $8.6 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects
  • $5 billion for weatherization assistance
  • $2.4 billion for energy research and development
  • $810 million for transportation efficiency and alternative fuels
  • $1.4 billion that's expected to be available for industrial carbon sequestration projects
  • Extended or increased tax credits for energy efficiency, renewable energy, fuel refueling systems to homeowners and businesses. Advanced energy tax credits are also offered to carbon sequestration facilities.

One potential funding source has been proposed specifically for climate change adaptation projects in the Water System Adaptation Partnerships Act (H.R. 2969) presented to the U.S. House of Representatives June 19. If signed into law, this bill will provide 50% matching grants to water and wastewater projects promoting climate change adaptation, including:

  • Water use efficiency
  • Water quality improvements
  • Source water protection
  • Green infrastructure
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy
  • Advanced treatment technologies
  • Climate change studies or assessments.

Funding will be prioritized based on which projects address the most immediate risk of climate change-related impacts to water quality. At press time, the last major Congressional action was to refer the bill to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Pick a strategy

Water managers should seek integrated, adaptive approaches to address potential climate change.

The projected impacts of climate change on water resources management, coastline water, and wastewater infrastructure dictate that water and wastewater agencies should adopt an adaptive strategy for addressing climate change. Two approaches may be taken:

  • A “reactive” approach refers to short-term solutions. For example, retrofitting coastal outfalls to prevent backflow due to rising sea levels (see picture at immediate right) or speeding up long-term plans as necessary.
  • A “proactive” approach refers to preparing preventive, adaptive, long-term planning solutions. For example, re-examining the intensity-duration-frequency curves of design storms used to model and design collection/conveyance systems and re-examining water storage management decisions. Both public works management and elected officials should be involved in these approaches. Managers should prioritize their capital improvement plan, keeping in mind that their facilities and infrastructure will be pushed to capacity as weather conditions change. Elected officials need to stay informed on climate change issues, and inform the public of the changes underway and those projected, to provide better support for their community's evolving needs.