Showcasing Leading Practices in Climate Adaptation: Experiences from the Water Sector to Empower Other Sectors and Communities; NOAA

An Eight-Part Webinar Series Hosted by: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Adaptation Sciences Program (AdSci), Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA), The Water Research Foundation (WRF), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  |  November 2021 – February 2022

Climate change is one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century. This webinar series, sponsored jointly by NOAA’s Adaptation Sciences Program, WUCA, WRF, and EPA, will explore practical lessons and leading practices focused on steps to mainstreaming climate science and adaptation considerations into building for climate resilience. Having worked on climate adaptation for over a decade, water utilities have learned many lessons and developed approaches to share with peer sectors seeking to learn and take steps to adapt now. Expanding the exchange of knowledge across communities will also foster more effective adaptation and improve community resilience.

Specific topics for these webinars will include:

  • Leading Practices in Climate Adaptation: highlights a range of actions that organizations can implement for climate adaptation that have been ground-tested by WUCA agencies.
  • Climate Adaptation Engineering Case Studies: discusses adaptation opportunities in infrastructure design and project delivery processes and provides case studies of recent water infrastructure projects.
  • Business Function Mapping: provides a framework-oriented process to mainstream climate change considerations within organizations.
  • Equity and Environmental Justice Considerations in Climate Adaptation: highlights how equity can influence community goals and build partnerships with lessons learned and solutions to build equity while adapting to climate change
  • Green Stormwater Infrastructure: describes community experiences in deciding to use green stormwater infrastructure, monetizing and quantifying benefits, developing critical stakeholder partnerships, and using available tools to evaluate options to include in adaptation plans.
  • Greenhouse Gas and Energy: provides valuable information and inspiration for greenhouse gas mitigation or sewage thermal energy use projects from concept to implementation.
  • Climate Warming and Impacts to Staff and Assets: analyzes the impact of extreme temperature events on personnel and critical water utility physical infrastructure assets.
  • Federal and Other Funding for Adaptation: reviews available resources for financial support of adaptation projects, improving understanding of successful strategies and connecting the audience with community-based and sector-focused funding.

The goal of these webinars is to help us, adaptation practitioners, advance our thinking about effective approaches by learning from others what has worked (or not worked). Beyond sharing examples from the water sector, these webinars will foster a multi-sectoral dialogue, sharing practical resources and tools for planning.


Leading Practices in Climate Adaptation
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The Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) is a group of 12 utilities working to collaboratively advance climate adaptation. WUCA’s latest work, “Leading Practices in Climate Adaptation,” includes a report and website summarizing a range of actions that have been tested on the ground by WUCA agencies. The Leading Practices were developed by practitioners for practitioners and are accessible to utilities of all sizes, locations, and levels of climate adaptation experience, as well as other sectors seeking to adapt to changing conditions. Each practice is supported with concrete examples and many include supporting resources. In this webinar, participants will learn about the five essential climate action areas, review the Leading Practices, and hear a range of supporting examples. Participants will also engage in an exercise to begin thinking about which practices would be a good fit for their organization.

Climate Adaptation Engineering Case Studies
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Demonstrating climate adaptation in practice is critical to engineers and planners alike in designing more climate resilient infrastructure for the future. This is particularly critical as engineers are designing infrastructure that will most likely be used into the next century, based on today’s science. In this webinar, our first speaker will provide a nationwide overview, highlighting adaptation opportunities and actions for U.S. infrastructure planning and depicting how climate change information is being used in on-the-ground engineering practices. Our second speaker will showcase a series of eight engineering case studies developed by WUCA and the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group. The case studies include engineering projects that are being planned across a range of climate change impacts: drought, extreme heat, flooding and rising seas/storm surge, and extreme rainfall. The collection of case studies are intended to be a conversation starter, ultimately offering the engineering community ideas to continue to build upon.

Business Function Mapping
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“Mapping Climate-related Risks and Opportunities to Water Utility Business Functions,” is a collaborative project between the Water Utility Climate Alliance, The Water Research Foundation, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Denver Water (DW) and the San Francisco Public Utility Commission (SFPUC). Collectively they have developed a framework and guidebook (2020) to foster organization-wide climate mainstreaming. The framework is adaptive, flexible, and tailorable to help water utilities define their focus for a risk and opportunity assessment, ask key climate questions, map climate impacts relative to mission-critical business functions, and pinpoint risks and opportunities across those business functions. This webinar will provide next steps for communities to use as they begin to assess the climate-related risk and opportunities associated with their critical business functions.

Equity and Environmental Justice Considerations in Climate Adaptation
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Access to safe, reliable, and affordable water and sanitation is a human right. It is essential to every part of our society from the economy to the health of the environment. Across the United States, growing numbers of individuals and communities are confronting water threats, particularly those associated with climate change. Understanding water equity demonstrates that not all individuals/communities have the ability or opportunity to access adequate water resources or stormwater and wastewater services. Vulnerable communities face a barrage of issues including health and environmental disparities. Additionally, vulnerable communities do not have equal access to essential resources, hindering their resilience and ability to recover quickly as events such as flooding become more extreme due to climate change. This webinar will highlight lessons learned in the water resource realm and solutions to achieve equity and promote climate change adaptations that webinar participants can apply in other sectors to strengthen their communities.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure
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Many cities and municipalities have adopted green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) practices to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and meet water quality standards as well as yield many co-benefits, including flood risk reduction, improved air quality, reducing respiratory and heat-related illnesses, creating “green” collar jobs, and more. Presenters will describe community experiences, beginning with their decision to use GSI, approaches to monetizing and quantifying GSI benefits, and the importance of partnerships with stakeholders. This webinar will highlight resources and tools from EPA and the water sector that communities may use to evaluate or plan for GSI options in their adaptation plans.

Greenhouse Gas and Energy
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Water utilities use energy to move and treat water to provide drinking water to communities and discharge clean water to the environment and that energy accounts for about 30% of a utilities’ total costs. Water utilities have been exploring opportunities to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions as well as harness the energy embedded in wastewater for beneficial uses. This webinar will highlight WUCA case studies focused on progressive greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation projects at water supply utilities and a WRF study on energy that can be recovered for heating and cooling at a building-scale to neighborhood-scale (called Sewage Thermal Energy Use (STEU)). This information is particularly useful for private property owners and municipalities interested in GHG mitigation or STEU and will discuss financing options, ownership models, installations and maintenance costs, GHG reductions, and other shared benefits.

Climate Warming and Impacts to Staff and Assets

Heat health is a priority of the Biden administration, with proposed new actions aimed at protecting workers and communities to reduce heat-related illness and protect public health, including a proposed workplace heat standard. The White House maintains that heat stress disproportionately affects the poor, elderly and minority groups with deadly consequences. Speakers in this session will provide a background on heat and water impacts and will highlight a study by the Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) that analyzed the impact of such extreme temperature events on critical water utility physical infrastructure assets and personnel. A discussion of health impacts to those working outside will provide information to communities worried about their outdoor workers.

Federal and Other Funding for Adaptation
Date: February 17, 2022 | Time: 1:00-3:00 pm EST


Availability of federal and other funds for climate related initiatives have dramatically increased over the past fiscal year. However, there has proven to be a large gap in the understanding and access to technical and financial resources, especially where to find these funds and support for applying. This session will aim to improve understanding of these technical resources for financial support and connect the audience with community-based funding and sector-focused funding for recent and forthcoming actions.