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Meridian Institute

EPA Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative in 2015

Monday, January 25, 2016

In 2015, Meridian Institute continued its work with the Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) Initiative of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In particular, Meridian supported the development of the third version of the CRWU’s Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool, known as CREAT 3.0. CREAT is a risk assessment tool that allows water utilities to access climate data, evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on their assets, and identify adaptation options to address impacts using both traditional risk assessment and scenario-based methods. Over the course of 2015, Meridian provided facilitation support for a series of CRWU-sponsored meetings across the nation aimed at refining the design of CREAT 3.0 and training water utility operators on the tool.
 
In March and April 2015, Meridian facilitated CREAT 3.0 pilots at the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, California, and at Spartanburg Water in Spartanburg, South Carolina, respectively. During the pilot engagements, staff from the two utilities provided the EPA with feedback on the functionality and user-friendliness of the beta version of CREAT 3.0. Meridian facilitated discussions about technical aspects of the tool, including climate data sources and methods and economic methods for monetizing risk. Pilot participants also provided input on how to frame the purpose of CREAT and how to effectively package the outputs of the tool for utility decision making and communicating with ratepayers about the risks posed by climate change.
 
Meridian also worked with the CRWU to design and facilitate Extreme Events and Climate Adaptation Planning Workshops in five different EPA regions: Region 9, Los Angeles, California, in April; Region 6, Pueblo Santa Ana, New Mexico, in June; Region 10, Portland, Oregon, in June; Region 7, Des Moines, Iowa, in July; and Region 2, Edison, New Jersey, in December. The workshops brought together drinking water, wastewater and stormwater utility representatives to better understand regional climate threats and how climate change may exacerbate potential impacts in the future, as well as to receive training on CREAT. At each workshop, climate scientists from within the respective regions presented information about weather trends and long-term climate projections, and participants shared stories about planning for and managing extreme events. The groups then used a hypothetical utility to work through the CREAT risk assessment process and compare the monetary risk reduction values of different adaptation plans.