Here 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.
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.
Stormwater is rainwater and melted snow that collects and runs off streets, parking lots, sidewalks, lawns and many other sites. Optimally, stormwater is absorbed into the ground where it is filtered and ultimately replenishes aquifers or flows into streams and rivers. But as more land is developed there is less and less of the natural infiltration and filtering process. Impervious surfaces such as pavements and roofs prevent precipitation from naturally soaking into the ground. Instead, the water runs rapidly into storm drains, sewer systems, drainage ditches and culverts overwhelming them, which results in damage to the infrastructure as well as residual environmental issues.
Municipalities and private industries are finding themselves confronted with increasingly demanding EPA standards to manage stormwater runoff and reduce its harmful effects. The toll that stormwater is taking on our natural and manmade infrastructure, and the ongoing threat of polluting stormwater compromising our watersheds and ecosystems, are becoming a major focus of the EPA.