Investing in Co-production of Water and Climate Knowledge

orgainizer_wucaBenjamin Franklin, the 18th century scientist, inventor, statesman and Founding Father of the United States, once said: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Perhaps the most valuable investment for water utilities confronting the risks and impact of climate change is a stake in “co-production” of the knowledge that will pay the best interest – i.e., water system sustainability and resilience for their communities. Co-production is the term used to describe the collaborative efforts between the users of climate information (such as water utilities) and the generators of climate information (such as government or academic researchers.) to design research projects aimed at meeting specific utility informational needs.

The Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) recently released two important white papers that advance understanding of how climate change assessment and adaptation is developing at water and wastewater systems. WUCA, one of the six organizers of the 2015 International Water & Climate Forum, 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 their water supplies. The new papers are a rich resource of case studies from the front lines of climate change planning and assessments as well as a practical guide to future investment.

The first paper showcases 13 water agencies actively incorporating climate change into their planning and decision-making processes. Embracing Uncertainty: A Case Study Examination of How Climate Change is Shifting Water Utility Planning discusses the new level of complexity climate change adds to decision-making processes and presents case studies illustrating the variety of ways in which utilities are bringing climate change into planning – from immediate operational decisions, to capital planning and asset management, to long-term supply planning. This white paper was developed through a collaboration between WUCA, AWWA, AMWA, and WRF.

The second paper, Actionable Science in Practice: Co-Producing Climate Change Information for Water Utility Vulnerability Assessments: Final Report of the Piloting Utility Modeling Applications (PUMA) Project, features four PUMA Project water utilities (New York City, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Portland). The utilities worked in collaboration with local climate science consortiums to select or develop locally appropriate tools, projections and approaches to understand the impact of climate change on drinking water supplies.

These white papers are extremely relevant to the aims of the 2015 International Water & Climate Forum. This focus on “co-production” and understanding research needs through discussion and interaction of utilities and researchers, as well as case studies of water systems understanding climate impacts and implementing climate considerations and uncertainties into decision making, prime the pump for the Forum’s full agenda of presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions. There is no required reading for the Forum, but the WUCA white papers are highly recommended, as they provide an insightful introduction to many key topics.


The Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) is a co-organizer of the 2015 International Water & Climate Forum.  WUCA is comprised of ten of the largest water providers in the United States and was formed to provide leadership and collaboration on climate change issues affecting water agencies.