The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

New Episode of #ClimateReady Podcast | Utilities of the Future, Today: How Public Utilities are Pioneering Climate-Smart Infrastructure

We count on public utilities to provide services integral to everyday life. When we turn on the tap or flip a light switch, the assumption is that water will run and rooms will light up. But as the climate changes and cities continue to grow at a breakneck pace, what can utilities do to continue to provide these essential services? Is there a way to avoid overexploiting natural resources while keeping ratepayers happy?

For insight into climate-smart development, we look to the pioneering efforts of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) in the U.S. state of California. On this episode of ClimateReady, we’ll hear from three SFPUC representatives: Mike Brown, Sarah Minick, and Karri Ving. They describe the ways in which SFPUC is utilizing — and financing — nature-based “green” infrastructure to reinforce and supplement their existing systems in order to provide water, wastewater, and power services to millions of customers in a region highly vulnerable to climate change. In the second part of the discussion, we hear how SFPUC is financing these innovative projects — totaling over US$1.4 billion — through the use of the world’s first certified climate bonds dedicated to water infrastructure.

Following the interview, we wrap up with another installment of “Climate of Hope” in partnership with the World Youth Parliament for Water. Karan Gajare, a civil engineer from India pursuing a Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering through an Erasmus Mundus program, shares a success story of a small village taking big steps to adapt to and mitigate climate change in his native India (full story at http://bit.ly/38tc9F7).
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Story Map Provides Tour of Climate-Related Hydrologic Risk Assessment for the California State Water Project

This article was written by Wyatt Arnold, Engineer, Water Resources at the California Department of Water Resources Climate Change Program.
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To illuminate potential risks connected with the deeply uncertain future, planners with limited resources must often choose between two approaches. Option 1 provides a limited number of intensely bright yet narrowly focused spotlights (analogous to top-down analysis through downscaling of global climate models). Option 2 provides an unlimited number of glowing sticks, which may only softly brighten their surroundings, but cumulatively provide a more comprehensive perspective of the situation (analogous to bottom-up analysis through approaches such as
decision scaling). The second approach seems more worthwhile when tackling the wide range of climate changes projected for California within the next 30 years — from an overall increase of 1 to 4 degrees Celsius and from 20 percent less to 30 percent more overall precipitation.

In collaboration with researchers at the
Hydrosystems Research Group at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, we adopted the second approach for assessing long-term and persistent hydrologic impacts of climate change on the California State Water Project (SWP). The SWP is a water storage and delivery system that extends more than two-thirds the length of California, serves 27 million people, and irrigates more than three quarters of a million acres of farmland.

We summarize results of our bottom-up, decision scaling study
in an online story map to facilitate access to the crucial information produced and the methods and thinking that went into its production.
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