Filling the Gaps: Climate and Weather Information for Small- and Medium-size Water Utilities
Funded by NOAA Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP)
In response to requests from decision-makers from water resource management and city planning in communities, NOAA has been developing the Water Resources Dashboard as an integrated information resource for a wide variety of federal weather, climate, and water information used throughout the water sector. The Dashboard has primarily attracted use by larger water utilities but has limited reach to smaller utilities. NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management and Water Initiative is funding an expanded Dashboard relevant to smaller water utilities, the creation of more useful tools, and improved outreach materials for water resource managers to help in daily and long-term decision-making related to weather and climate events. As part of this effort, GLISA hosted a regional webinar on July 27, 2020 focused on stormwater to raise awareness of the tools and assess stakeholder information needs. The agenda included an overview of precipitation trends in the region, the presentation of four tools, a virtual tools cafe, a live survey, and a Q&A panel with three stormwater practitioners.
- Regional webinar focused on stormwater to raise awareness of tools and assess stakeholder information needs
- Presentation on precipitation changes in the Great Lakes
- Presentations of four tools (Atlas 14, Climate Explorer, EPA Stormwater Calculator, Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts)
- Handouts summarizing tools from workshop
- Publicly available recording of webinar
- 4-page summary document
A survey of participants during the webinar allowed GLISA to gather information about the needs and challenges of water utilities and other stormwater practitioners in using climate and weather tools. The biggest challenge is the amount of time it takes to select and use a tool, including the time it takes to sift through the abundance of tools available, determining which tool is appropriate for an application, and learning how to use the tool. To many users, this is not worth the amount of time and effort required because they lack confidence and trust in using tools, especially any that are not standardized. Users need to know certain details about a tool’s credibility before using it, such as if it is accurate and reliable, whether it would be approved by regulators, what the limits of the tool are, and if a tool is updated with new information or as standards change. Having such information upfront and easy to find in a Dashboard could relieve some of these concerns that inhibit people from using a tool in the first place.
A panel of three stormwater practitioners discussed issues around planning for stormwater impacts in the face of climate change and addressing equity while doing so. A few key points were gleaned from this conversation. Educating decision-makers and the public about the causes of flooding helps when implementing strategic plans at a regional scale for stormwater management. Communities do understand that they cannot rely on outdated historical data and practices, so they regularly update the precipitation statistics they use to inform their management strategies. Many cities and utilities are trying to address the inequalities of flooding, given that people in disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations generally face the biggest impacts from flooding and other environmental issues. This is beginning to be addressed by implementing practices like changing the way they prioritize investments and dedicating funds specifically for communities where affordability is an issue.
GLISA planned and facilitated a workshop for water utilities in the Great Lakes region. We convened an advisory panel to help determine the scope and theme of the workshop. GLISA coordinated the workshop with NOAA’s Climate Program Office (CPO) to include an array of presentations and demonstrations on precipitation tools, as well as a Q&A panel of stormwater practitioners. GLISA facilitated the workshop via live webinar (instead of an in-person event due to the COVID-19 pandemic) that is now available to watch online.
The Water Research Foundation, NOAA SARP
Kim Channell, Climatologist, firstname.lastname@example.org