Home > Latest

Impacts of climate change

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) is seeking proposals for research that assesses the impact of climate change on clean water utility—wastewater, stormwater, and collection system—services. The research will review the risk of climate change and provide an estimate of the magnitude of that risk. Research results will be used by clean water utility personnel and their consultants.

In addition to natural variability in the climate system, many scientists believe that the rate of climate change is increasing as a result of rapid accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Climate modelers predict that the rate of climate change will continue to increase during the next several decades and beyond. Because it is difficult to predict future emissions of greenhouse gases, and because the sensitivity of the climate system is not fully understood, there is uncertainty surrounding estimates of climate change. In addition, there is no consensus regarding the exact nature or timing of local and regional climate changes.

Wastewater and stormwater utilities are well aware that changes in temperature, precipitation, sea levels, and the hydrologic cycle in general affect delivery of services and potentially affect receiving water quality. Changes in human behavior—such as changes in water demand, changes in land use and land cover, and more legislative protection of adversely affected species—may also accompany climate change. These factors add additional uncertainty to the future sustainability of municipal wastewater and stormwater services.

Similar to a white paper prepared for the water supply industry (Miller, K., and D. Yates, 2006), this paper will address the range of potential impacts that could affect the wastewater industry. Importantly, it will include cost impact projections based on various scenarios (e.g., sensitivity analysis to determine the "big cost" factors). The paper will inform utilities, their regulators, and public policy officials as, together, they anticipate and plan for the impacts of climate change.

Proposals must be received by 4:00 p.m. (EST), Dec. 17, 2008. Go to www.werf.org to access the complete request for proposals. Contact WERF Program Director Lauren Fillmore at lfillmore@werf.org for more information on this research effort or the proposal process.