Climate Change

AWWA Policy Statement on Climate Change

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) recognizes that global climate change and inherent variability are having impacts on the hydrologic cycle, source water, and water demands that differ from statistical trends based on historical records, thus impacting the anticipated quantity, quality, and reliability of water supplies. Two principal goals for water utilities in addressing impacts due to climate change and inherent variability are: to assess risk and uncertainty; and to develop and take actions that improve resiliency and sustainability in utility management, facilities and water sources.

Comprehensive planning efforts such as integrated water resources management, contingency and emergency preparedness, risk assessments, and energy management plans address a wide range of climate scenarios in preparation for, and response to, changing and variable climate conditions. Scenario planning should consider climate impacts on both water demand and supply quantity and quality as water demand can be impacted both by more frequent weather extremes and by future population migration trends that may be driven by climate change. Additionally, AWWA recognizes that promoting the responsible use of reclaimed water is important to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations, particularly with respect to safe and affordable water and enhancing the resiliency of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

To help manage global greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global climate change, AWWA supports and encourages efforts by water utilities to examine their energy usage and carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by developing management plans for energy efficiency. AWWA supports water efficiency as a means to achieve energy efficiency and prolong the usefulness of existing supplies. AWWA supports the development of more refined climate models and tools that address the impacts of climate change and inherent variability on water quality, quantity, and demand at scales relevant to water utilities.

AWWA believes it is essential for water utilities to work together and collaborate with other sectors of water users on climate change analyses, evaluation of alternative scenarios, and mitigation and adaptation planning and investments.  Water utilities should work closely with power suppliers to address issues related to the complex nexus between water and power production and consumption. To effectively integrate climate science into water utility operation and planning, water utilities should collaborate with national climate services to better address the needs of water utilities. Water utilities are encouraged to monitor climate science developments, engage with climate science researchers via established programs, and participate in the practical application of climate modeling and impact assessment at the utility scale. AWWA recommends that water utilities undertake adaptive planning and management through the development of climate action plans in conjunction with local and regional planners to address the specific impacts of climate change on their water supplies, operations, and facilities.

Practices specified in this policy statement are consistent with all other pertinent AWWA policy statements.

Approved by the Board of Directors Jan. 17, 2010. Revised Jan. 19, 2014 and Oct. 24, 2018.