Noblis Co-Sponsors Case Study Series on Water Resource Strategies in Response to Extreme Weather and Climate Events

Noblis Co-Sponsors Case Study Series on Water Resource Strategies in Response to Extreme Weather and Climate Events

Noblis sustainability staff presents closing remarks at Hill briefing

Water utilities want to learn from their peers about how they are responding to and planning for extreme weather and climate events. To meet this need, a coalition of federal and non-governmental organizations, Noblis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), Water Research Foundation (WaterRF), and Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC), co-sponsored a series of workshops focusing on extreme events and water resources. 

The Water Resource Strategies and Information Needs in Response to Extreme Weather/Climate Events workshops examined six communities that have experienced extreme floods, storms, derechos, drought, sea level rise and storm surge, and unseasonable frost. Using case studies and lessons learned from extreme weather events in California, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Missouri, and Washington, D.C., the series showed the importance of creating resilient infrastructures and presented utility managers with useful tools and data resources to deal with future extreme events. The goal of the series was to help policy makers and the research community better understand the plans and information needs of water utilities, and to open a dialogue among communities.

The case studies provided insight into the physical and operational issues that water utilities face, as well as the social, economic, philosophical, informational, and communication barriers they encounter. The case studies also showed practical adaptation and coping strategies used with a variety of extreme events.

A synthesis workshop was conducted in Washington, DC to address lessons learned from the six case studies and a Hill briefing, Adaptation Strategies and Information Needs in Response to Extreme Weather Events, was presented to U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate staff. Noblis Sustainability Manager Bob Wassmann spoke at the synthesis workshop and presented closing remarks at the Hill briefings. In these talks, he stressed the importance of outreach, education, and awareness.

“We need to do more to educate and engage broader audiences to facilitate holistic planning and decision making within a watershed,” said Wassmann. “Early planning and design to establish a resilient infrastructure takes resources, but the costs of responding and rebuilding after an extreme weather event will significantly exceed the costs of planning and building for the future.”

Fact sheets on each of the case studies and the final report can be found at www.werf.org/extremeweather.

The preliminary executive summary of Water Resource Strategies and Information Needs in Response to Extreme Weather/Climate Events included lessons learned on seven topics:

  • Cascading Nature of Extreme Events
    Instead of one dominant event, localities are dealing with multiple types and occurrences of extreme events, many of which are becoming more severe and more frequent in recent decades.
  • Water Services as Critical Infrastructure
    Water infrastructure is critical and must be prioritized.
  • Building Resilience
    Water utilities and communities must embrace both emergency response and long term preparedness strategies to increase resilience.
  • Community Decision-making within a Watershed
    The array of decisions within a watershed requires coordination beyond jurisdictional boundaries.
  • Leadership
    Communities need leadership to help navigate the path to resilience.
  • Information and Tools
    There is no “silver bullet” decision support tool. 
  • Communication and Collaboration
    Communication and collaboration increases access to actionable information.
Fact sheets on each of the case studies and the final report can be found at  www.werf.org/extremeweather.

Noblis Experts

Bob Wassmann

Bob leads sustainability, critical infrastructure resilience, and greenhouse gas accounting efforts for Noblis’s support to major agencies.
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Jeffrey Marqusee

Dr. Marqusee is a nationally known expert in environmental science and technology.
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Scot Bryant

Scot has supported defense installations and facilities through technical, program, and project management.
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