Adapting Wastewater Infrastructure to Climate Change

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climate change adaptation principles

Climate change is increasing the amounts of rainfall, changing its patters, and making storm events more intense and frequent. How will this affect wastewater infrastructure design and performance, especially its wastewater collection and treatment functions?

The WSP article shows how climate change trend leads to climate variability such as increasing land surface and ocean temperatures, and the decline in Arctic ice. These changes affect the atmosphere moisture levels and alter the water cycle creating new precipitation patterns and resulting in wetter winters, more rain than snow, or doubling numbers of extreme rainfall events by 2050.

The integration of climate change to the wastewater and water infrastructure has yet to happen in the local governments. The degree of uncertainly to available data and the capital cost required to adapt infrastructure to handle these changes are some of the challenges that hinder swift integration of climate change, the article says.

The City of Barrie in Ontario, Canada took the initiative and came up with a simple flowchart to help analyze the potential implications of climate change on wastewater infrastructure.  


The article identified climate parameters for each climate variable like precipitation, temperature, and wind that can affect water and wastewater infrastructure.

Climate parameters refer to the annual and monthly measurements of each climate variable. Based on data collected from climate parameters and climate models, cities can produce specific climate projections which will serve as the basis for infrastructure design.

As infrastructure are designed to have a service life of 100 years, it is critical for engineering professionals to integrated climate change effects to their design.

To do this is not simple but requires skills in making decisions under uncertainty with and cost-benefit and risk analysis on top of it.  Municipalities can improve infrastructure resilience when they integrated climate change and future changes, the article says.

To read the entire article, click the link below:

Source Citation:

Albert, M., Nanos, M., & Grant, J. (2019, April 11). Can we incorporate climate change principles into wastewater infrastructure. WSP. Retrieved from Climate change and wastewater infrastructure | WSP

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