American Water Publishes Resiliency Planning White Paper

White paper outlines how planning and building strategies can help mitigate extreme weather

With hurricane season underway on the East Coast and extreme heat and drought currently affecting many parts of the country, American Water Works Co. Inc. published a new white paper, titled “Sustainability and Resiliency Planning for Water Utilities.” The paper is posted in the Press Resources section of the company’s website.

During a significant weather event, a water utility’s level of preparedness can mean the difference between temporary inconveniences and serious health and environmental consequences. Since Americans rely on water utilities to provide drinking water and sanitation, water utility preparedness can greatly impact how quickly communities can recover from an emergency.

“Water and wastewater systems are built for resiliency and sustainability of operations during weather events or other circumstances that could potentially interrupt service, but the increasing frequency of significant events in recent years, caused by climate change, has created a renewed focus on business continuity planning and emergency response for water utilities,” says Jeff Sterba, president and CEO, American Water. “When events that were historically considered to be ‘100-year’ events happen more and more frequently, utilities must prepare for a new normal.”

The scientific community widely believes that climate change impacts include rising sea levels that contribute to increased destruction during severe storms, as well as increased droughts that severely impact agriculture, businesses, fire protection and drinking water supplies. According to American Water’s white paper, climate change is having a profound effect on how communities can reliably access clean water, causing poor water quality and scarcity and putting significant stress on the water infrastructure. In 2011 and 2012 alone, there were 25 climate-related extreme-weather events that each caused about $1 billion in economic damages.

In addition to climate change impacts, the critical state of the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as “man-made” factors such as urbanization and population growth, are further contributors to the challenges water utilities face in planning for sustainability of operations.

As the white paper illustrates, American Water’s approach to mitigating these circumstances includes risk assessment through engineering planning studies, and risk management through prudent investment into its systems, integrated water resource management, and the use of innovation technology. 

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