Supporting Water Utilities in Producing and Acting on Climate Change Information
Water resources in the United States face significant new risks due to climate change. Ten of the country’s largest water providers formed the Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) in 2007 to address these risks in a coordinated manner. The WUCA is “dedicated to enhancing climate change research and improving water management decision-making to ensure that water utilities will be positioned to respond to climate change and protect our water supplies.”
Abt Associates’ staff assisted the WUCA in three assessments.
1) Evaluating options for improving climate modeling to assist water utility planning for climate change: Abt provided core research for assessing how investments in the science of climate change, and in particular climate modeling, can best be directed to help improve the quality of science so that it may be more useful to water utilities and other possible users in adapting to climate change. Read the final report: Options for Improving Climate Modeling to Assist Water Utility Planning for Climate Change.
2) Supporting efforts to produce actionable climate change information for water utilities: Abt assisted the WUCA Piloting Utility Modeling Applications project in conducting an analysis designed to:
- Improve understanding of how climate model projections, when used in conjunction with existing utility management tools, can help address utility planning needs;
- Explain how utilities can choose to use that information to support adaptation; and
- Explore the nature of productive collaboration between scientists and decision-makers, to help bridge the gap between climate science providers and climate science users.
As part of this project, Abt completed an extensive data collection effort – through desk-top research, surveys, and phone interviews – and facilitated collaboration between climate experts and personnel from water utilities in New York City, Portland, Seattle, and Tampa Bay.
3) Assisting water utilities in translating climate change information into action: Abt is working with WUCA members to identify how community water providers can account for significant uncertainties in decision-making processes. Accounting for these uncertainties will enable utilities to make decisions that reflect the possibility of multiple futures – such as one that is either hotter and drier or hotter and wetter. As part of this project, Abt developed a series of case studies that examine how preparing for large uncertainties like climate change affects decision objectives, informational needs, the applicability of analytic methodologies, and the use of analytic outcomes.
Read more about this work:
- Options for Improving Climate Modeling to Assist Water Utility Planning for Climate Change
- Actionable Science in Practice: Co-Producing Climate Change Information for Water Utility Vulnerability Assessments
- Embracing Uncertainty: A Case Study Examination of How Climate Change is Shifting Water Utility Planning
- “Two Faces of Uncertainty: Climate Science and Water Utility Planning Methods,” Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. 138(5):398–395.