AWWA Supports Forum to Advance Climate Change Dialogue

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has a strong history of active involvement on climate change impacts on water utilities. As part of its policy on climate change, AWWA is partnering in the 2015 International Water & Climate Forum and encouraging water utilities to attend this important event. The association sees this commitment as a way to support the development and promotion of education and training resources that advance the dialogue on climate change across the water utility sector.cynthia-lane

Given the immense amount of attention focused on climate change, as well as the very real impacts expected for the water utility sector, the AWWA last year revised its climate change policy (originally issued in 2010) in an effort to elevate the issue and ensure attention was directed to this important topic. The policy identifies two principal goals for water utilities regarding impacts due to climate change: “to assess risk and uncertainty due to climate change; and to develop and take actions to improve resiliency and sustainability in utility facilities and overall utility management.”

Many parts of the Forum agenda support and give concrete, practical dimensions to key elements of AWWA’s climate change policy:

  • AWWA supports the development of more refined climate models and tools to address the impacts of climate changes on water quality, quantity, and demand at scales that are relevant to water utilities. Water utilities should monitor climate science developments, reach out to climate science research programs, and participate in the practical application of climate modeling and impact assessment at the utility scale. To effectively integrate climate science into water utility operation and planning, water utilities should collaborate with national climate services to address the needs of water utilities. In a Forum session on “Innovations and Current Research,” prominent global innovators and researchers will examine the interactions between climate and water will provide an overview of key topics that are the focus of current research. Presentations will be followed by a discussion to identify research needs for implementing climate adaptation strategies.
  • AWWA encourages water utilities to: support regional climate modeling; respond proactively to anticipated climate variation; and develop adaptation responses to enhance resiliency for a range of projected climate impacts. A panel addressing “Perspectives on Resilience” will highlight approaches that utilities and cities around the world are taking to become more resilient. These approaches may not be driven specifically by a changing climate, but rather by the need to build resilience to address other threats and risks to their communities.
  • AWWA believes it is essential for water utilities to work together and with other sectors of water users on climate change analyses, evaluation of alternative scenarios, and mitigation and adaptation planning and investments. Comprehensive planning efforts such as integrated water resources development, contingency and emergency preparedness, risk assessments and energy management plans can address a wide range of climate scenarios in preparation for, and response to, changing climate conditions. Water and wastewater utility and city leaders from around the world will describe where they are now in implementing climate resilience plans in a Forum session entitledAdapting, Mitigating, And Planning: Looking Back and Looking Ahead.”
  • Water utilities should work closely with power suppliers to address issues related to the water-energy nexus. AWWA encourages and supports efforts by water utilities to examine their energy usage and carbon footprint, and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by developing energy efficiency and management plans. The development of “water footprints” helps utilities and the communities they serve prioritize climate change responses and communicate them to the public. In discussion and breakout sessions on “Planning and Resilience,” Forum participants will interact with experts on the topics of infrastructure investment, integrated water resources management, and water and energy interdependencies. In addition,Case Studies in Adaptation” will feature utility executives from Europe and the U.S. discussing and answering questions about their experiences in implementing climate adaptation measures and improving resiliency.

Water utility professionals looking for best practices in implementing climate change resilience into their planning and operations need look no farther than the 2015 International Water & Climate Forum.

Cynthia Lane is the Director of Engineering & Technical Services at AWWA, a co-organizer of the 2015 International Water & Climate Forum.