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

 

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?

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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Impact of Climate Change on our Infrastructure

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.

Continue reading

Climate Change Adaptation for Municipal Infrastructure

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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Climate change: What it means to us…. because of what it means to our infrastructure

Climate-ChangeClimate change … it’s not an abstract idea or just a notion anymore. There is more and more data supporting the fact that precipitation is getting more severe, that the sea level is rising and that New England is, and will continue to be, one of the country’s hardest hit regions.

Predicted Climate Changes
Scientists are telling us the climate in the next 100 years will likely be remarkably different than it has been over the past hundred years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has changed the term “global warming” to “climate change” because there are significant changes that go beyond just rising temperatures.

Here in New England we have seen more frequent extreme weather events in the past three decades. Studies forecast that New England is projected to face flooding, equivalent to the historic 100-year flood, once every decade or two. In the past 10 years there have been two major flood events in Northern New England only eleven months apart – Mother’s Day 2006 and Patriot’s Day 2007. No one will forget New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or much more recently, Hurricane Sandy just last Fall.

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