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Research Study Can Our Water Infrastructure — And Utility Managers — Weather The Storm? Extreme weather is battering our nation's water infrastructure, but utilities are gaining valuable lessons on how to deal with future events. By Claudio H. Ternieden, Erica Brown, Lauren Fillmore, Karen Metchis, Kenan Ozekin, and Nancy Beller-Simms E xtreme weather events are increasingly common An outcome of the 2010 discussions was an agreeand can potentially impact the nation's water ment between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric infrastructure, such as water and wastewater Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. EPA to collaboconveyance and treatment systems, intakes, rate with water research organizations, including the stormwater, and drainage management systems. These Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) and the events may include longer and more frequent and Water Research Foundation (WaterRF), to document these intense storms with higher winds and storm surges, proexperiences and synthesize collective knowledge. Over longed higher temperatures, extended drought, earlier time, other research organizations, such as Concurrent snowmelts, and sea level rise. These extreme events have Technologies Corporation (CTC) and Noblis, joined this added unpredicteffort. This groundability to an already breaking collaboration challenging job facenabled researchers to ing water, wastewaexamine how water ter, and stormwater utilities, resource manservice providers, agers, county and/ emergency planor regional planners, ners and respondand military installaers, elected offitions made decisions cials, and local and while experiencing regional decisionthese types of extreme makers. Recently, events and how they federal agencies and adapted their planresearch organizaning to better prepare tions joined to collect for them in the future. information on these Extreme low water levels due to drought are evident in Lake Travis, Austin TX. The study will idenevents in six areas tify how scientific data of the United States, was used in various and their findings will help utilities and other organizaregions of the country to inform decision making, either tions to better plan their infrastructure investments and during the event or while planning for future events. In implementation approaches. addition, the study will identify what information gaps In August 2010, more than 80 drinking water, stormneed to be filled to improve the ability of water services water, and wastewater utility practitioners participated and local and regional planners to adapt and respond to in a workshop that focused on their weather-sensitive recurring events. information needs for making key decisions on long-lived Collaborators have held a series of regional extreme-eventand costly investments. (See Water Research Foundation focused workshops, organized by type of extreme event (or publication "The Future of Research on Climate Change cascading sets of events) including drought, heavy rain and Impacts on Water"  or the Water Environment flooding, sea level rise and storm surge, and extreme temResearch Foundation [WERF6C10] report for the full workperatures. Each workshop included an overview of scientific shop proceedings and outcomes.) These practitioners were understanding of past, present, and future climate; descripparticularly concerned about their risk and vulnerability in tions of the events, including how they affected the compreparing for and adapting to an increased number and munity and the water and wastewater utilities and/or military intensity of extreme weather events. Participants noted that installations; and discussions with other water resource a number of their colleagues have faced an extreme event decision-makers in the watershed that affected the stakeholdin the recent past and that they could benefit from the ers' actions. Participants examined the actions taken and the knowledge gained and lessons learned from others' expeconstraints under which the communities operated, based riences to better prepare for and adapt to future events. on first-hand accounting. Practitioners and experts discussed 26 wateronline.com ■ Water Online The Magazine