Impact of Climate Change on Infrastructure

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We’re all too familiar with the concerns over climate change. We’ve heard the statistics and the impacts of climate change in New England, including: higher temperatures, more frequent precipitation, and more intense storms. Sea level rise (SLR) is on “the rise” for coastal communities and is threatening vital community infrastructure.

What Are We Doing About It? What Can We Do About It?
To many community leaders, the answers are complex and filled with apprehension. Wright-Pierce has seen communities struggle with these questions, and as a result, we have made it our mission to simplify the issues and focus on solutions that are achievable and backed by sound engineering. Wright Pierce – Climate Change Adaptation and Impacts

Understanding Mitigation & Adaptation
To help simplify the issues at hand, it is important to understand the difference between climate change “mitigation” and “adaptation.”
Mitigation of climate change involves actions to slow or reverse climate change trends. Mitigation is a global issue and one that will require significant action from world leaders to reduce carbon emissions and promote alternative energies, among other things.
Adaptation to climate change involves approaches, typically at the local and state level, to deal with the current and future impacts of climate change. Adaptation measures tend to focus on engineered solutions to protect existing and future infrastructure from future weather and oceanographic trends. As such, most of the opportunities to deal with climate change in New England relate to adaptation strategies.

Adaptation Strategies – Step #1
An important first step in adaptation is to understand the infrastructure within a community that is at risk of being impacted by severe climate events.
For the past several years, Wright-Pierce has assisted community leaders with studies that assess the impact a severe weather event will have on critical infrastructure and other vulnerable assets, from undersized culverts to valuable wastewater infrastructure located in low lying coastal regions subject to rising sea levels.  Wright-Pierce is lending clarity to the risks associated with climate change.

Adaptation Strategies – Step #2
The second step in adaptation is to develop conceptual engineering solutions to protect the assets identified in the impact study. Examples are tidal berms, culvert replacement projects, and even relocating wastewater facilities. Wright-Pierce has provided study, design, and cost estimating services to many New England communities dealing with at-risk assets. These designs and cost estimates are valuable tools that can then be used in public education campaigns. It is important to develop public awareness programs about the need to protect assets so as to gain positive traction towards meaningful solutions.

Adaptation Strategies – Step #3
The third step in adaptation is to present the list of vulnerable assets to the community leaders so essential dialogue can take place centered on the topics of risk, adaptation cost, and level of service. It is important that a community be given the whole picture of the risks and cost associated with climate change adaptation such that informed decisions can be made. Once a decision is made at the local level to proceed with an adaptation strategy, Wright-Pierce is ready to provide design and construction administration services for the selected project(s).

If you are in a community that is ready to take action to protect your valuable infrastructure, why not give us a call?  We would be more than happy to sit down with you to bring clarity to the often overwhelming issue of climate change adaptation.

Increased frequency of storms and severity of flooding prompts beach community to look for solutions. Click here to read the article.

 

Ryan Wingard, PE, Senior Project Manager, Stormwater Management SpecialistRyan T. Wingard, P.E., Group Leader

 

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Watershed Nitrogen Control

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Lawn Management- the”low hanging fruit” opportunity for nitrogen control

Over the past six years Wright-Pierce has written extensively about nitrogen impairment of coastal waters and the need for nitrogen control strategies to achieve water quality objectives. One important article addressed "Nitrogen – as the 21st Century Coastal Environment Challenge. To read more about nitrogen challenges, click here.

The three biggest sources of nitrogen imported into watershed include:

  • Food which becomes wastewater discharged to a septic system or public sewer system|
  • Atmospheric nitrogen pollution which gets deposited onto the landscape
  • Fertilizer used for agricultural land and lawn/turf grass care

Of all the sources of nitrogen, the fertilizer used on lawns and turf grass is the nitrogen source most economically reduced and should be a first line strategy for every nitrogen impaired watershed.

The fact is the subdivision house with ¼ acre to 1+ acre lawn is as American as apple pie and as a result of  all those lawns, a huge lawn care industry has emerged offering to help us keep those lawns green. The lawn care industry generally generates more revenue the more nitrogen they sell and most of the companies recommend the average homeowner apply 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn per year. These recommendations are decades old, excessive and uniformed by today’s water quality challenges. If a homeowner has a ½ acre of lawn and apply 4 lbs of N/1000sf/year, they will discharge to their property over twice as much nitrogen as they discharge to their wastewater system.

The good news is there are strategies to significantly reduce the nitrogen used on lawns and many good resources to assist communities and homeowners in this endeavor, such as the Turfgrass Nutrient Management Bulletin B-0100 produced by University of Connecticut (see their recommendations in blue sidebar).

To effectively reduce the nitrogen from lawn management, communities will have to:

  • Educate the public regarding the environmental and cost implications of lawn fertilizers
  • Educate the public regarding lawn care best management practices
  • Modify the perception of what constitutes attractive landscaping
  • Consider regulatory strategies

Wright-Pierce has been at the forefront of integrated watershed management for nitrogen control and is ready to assist your community address this important environmental issue.

Leonard_EdEd Leonard, PE, Wastewater Team Leader II

 

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Impact of Climate Change on Wastewater Treatment Facilities

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Global warming… Climate change… Regardless of the cause, what is evident is that we are experiencing a higher frequency of more intense, powerful storms and storm surge resulting in localized flooding.  We need to assess and adapt.

 

As a utility manager, how will you prepare for the future? What legacy will you leave your community with regard to planning for the future to address the impact of climate change on your facilities?

Traditional Comprehensive Plans
Wastewater facility plans, comprehensive plans and the like, have traditionally been our tools to take a comprehensive look at our wastewater facilities, consider replacement of antiquated equipment with modern more efficient equipment, rehabilitate structures and buildings, and consider more energy efficient processes. Sewered growth projections are made and the impact of growth on the ability of the facility to consistently meet discharge permit requirements is evaluated. Potential future regulatory requirements are assessed, and likely order of magnitude costs developed to address these possible distant effluent discharge limits. One ingredient missing in many of facility plans is an assessment of “the impact of climate change.”

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Is your water quality at risk from climate change?

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Golden AlgaeHere in New England, climate change is already impacting the quality of drinking water supply reservoirs and impoundments. More erratic precipitation patterns, increasingly heavy precipitation events and changing stream flow patterns are here. How are these weather changes impacting water quality? How can we monitor our water supplies to plan ahead for changes that may be needed to our treatment facilities?

Tracking Changes and Trends
Identifying key water quality indicators and tracking changes and trends over time is the best predictive tool to understand if your source of supply is at risk from climate change. For example, tracking mercury concentrations in your reservoir water column is one such indicator.

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Sustainable Water Supply Management

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Share and enjoy! Tweet Today's complex water supply issues demand an integrated watershed-based approach Competing Water Needs Reflecting on this long snowy winter, it’s hard to understand why New England needs to implement sustainable water management initiatives to protect our … Continue reading

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Impact of Climate Change on our Infrastructure

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Climate Change Flow MonitoringAdaptation as a Strategy

Written by: Ryan Wingard, PE, Senior Project Manager, Stormwater Management Specialist

We’re all too familiar with the concerns over climate change. We’ve heard the statistics and the impacts of climate change in New England, including: higher temperatures, more frequent precipitation, and more intense storms. Sea level rise (SLR) is on "the rise” for coastal communities and is threatening vital community infrastructure.

What are we doing? What can we do?
To many community leaders, the answers are complex and filled with apprehension. Wright-Pierce has seen communities struggle with these questions, and as a result we have made it our mission to simplify the issues and focus on solutions that are achievable and backed by sound engineering.

Understanding Adaptation vs. Mitigation
To help simplify the issues at hand, it is important to understand the difference between climate change "mitigation” and "adaptation.”

Mitigation of climate change involves actions to slow or reverse climate change trends. Mitigation is a global issue and one that will require significant action from world leaders to reduce carbon emissions and promote alternative energies, among other things.

Adaptation to climate change involves approaches, typically at the local and state level, to deal with the current and future impacts of climate change. Adaptation measures tend to focus on engineered solutions to protect existing and future infrastructure from future weather and oceanographic trends. As such, most of the opportunities to deal with climate change in New England relate to adaptation strategies.

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Climate Change Adaptation for Municipal Infrastructure

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climate-change-impact-on-infrastructureWhile the climate change debate continues, there's no denying the obvious changes that are occurring, and the resulting impact on our infrastructure

Written by: John Braccio, PE, President

Climate change is yet another significant infrastructure challenge facing communities and utility managers. In the New England region, we have seen the growing impacts of sea level rise and extreme storm events over the past few years, most prominently with Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, as well as other recent record setting storm events.

Irene resulted in torrential record rainfalls in the northeast with more than 7 million homes without power, 45 deaths and $7.3 billion in damages. Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane in history with damages assessed at over $68 billion. Several of the coastal communities we work with sustained significant damage to their infrastructure systems. I directly witnessed the impacts of Sandy in my coastal neighborhood.

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Membrane Filtration, a technology used by Wright-Pierce for select water treatment facilities

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Is Membrane Treatment the Solution of Choice?

Depending on the quality of the water supply, the answer is Yes!

Membrane-Filtration-Wright-Pierce Article by: Rick Davee, PE, Senior Vice President, Wright-Pierce.

Back a few years, Wright-Pierce published an article in INSIGHTS (Wright-Pierce Newsletter) about the growing use of membrane technology for water treatment because of its many benefits, including:

_ Better removal of contaminants
_ Higher efficiency
_ Membrane integrity assurance
_ Variable filtration ratings
_ Smaller footprint
_ Consistent operation
_ Environment friendly

With all the benefits, the question is “has membrane water treatment become a treatment technology of choice?” According to Wright-Pierce water engineers, "Depending on the quality of the water supply, in many cases the answer is a definite, yes!"

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Got Manganese?

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Discolored Water … Staining of Bathroom Fixtures… Laundry Staining…
The Woes of Excess Manganese

Iron-Manganese Written by: Rich Protasowicki, Senior Project Manager

If you have manganese (Mn) in your raw water source(s) and are not treating for it, there’s a good possibility that your consumers are letting you know about it. Whether it’s a call about dirty water, staining of bathroom fixtures, or laundry staining you’ve probably had to respond to one or all of these consumer complaints. In fact, you may be hearing more about manganese in the future as regulators take a closer look at it and how itrelates to public health.

 

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Nitrogen — the 21st Century Coastal Environmental Challenge

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The result of excess nitrogen in our waterNitrogen is a component of all living things and is essential to life itself. In environments that are not influenced by man, nitrogen is usually in short supply. However, human activity is dramatically changing this situation and there are negative consequences of having “too much of a good thing.”

To address this growing problem and to ensure sustainability, control of nitrogen releases to the environment is a top priority for communities across this country.

Excess nitrogen causes excessive phytoplankton (algae) growth which in turn decrease water clarity and decreases dissolved oxygen. These water quality changes can adversely impact submerged plants like eelgrass which in turn creates a host of impacts to fisheries and other marine life.

Nitrogen pollution is the number one threat to our coastal waters. An excess of nitrogen in coastal and estuarine waters can have cascading environmental consequences.

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