American Water Releases Paper on Sustainability, Resiliency Planning

With hurricane season underway on the East Coast and extreme heat and drought currently affecting many parts of the country, American Water Works Company, Inc., recently published a new white paper, titled ?Sustainability and Resiliency Planning for Water Utilities.?

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 of 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.

?Water is essential to life itself and the impact of climate change on water availability, flooding and drought is severe,? said Sterba. ?Four years ago, American Water committed to reducing our carbon footprint by 16 percent by 2017 and we are on track to achieve our goal through innovation and reduced energy use. Sustainability and resiliency planning enables the water industry to serve our customers better while helping to address climate change.?

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. Sterba discussed these and other strategies during a panel discussion on July 17 for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions? (C2ES) launch of its new report, ?Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change,? which features American Water as a case study.

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