Optimizing CIP for Enhanced Climate Resiliency in the Watershed

Tess Sprague, PhD, Climate and Resiliency Lead, Brown and Caldwell

Ted Douglass, Water Stewardship and Resilience Investments Lead, Brown and Caldwell

Changes in intensity and frequency of temperature and precipitation provide more extreme parameters that our stressed, and often aging, infrastructure will need to overcome. These changes can mean a dramatic difference in real-time conditions within the watershed that test and potentially exceed the limits of infrastructures’ original design capacity. It is important to understand and plan for these differences to optimize capital improvement planning (CIP), better prepare water and wastewater utilities for a changing climate, and enhance overall resilience for communities and ecosystems.

Developing and adjusting project planning, including development of climate resiliency and sustainability targets, provides opportunities for the private and public sectors to come to a confluence. Partnerships for developing these projects and optimizing CIP project prioritization processes enables leveraging resources and the desire to achieve multiple targets for greater natural and traditional infrastructural resiliency and longer-term, more sustainable watershed-based planning.

Steps in utilizing these partnerships and implementing this optimization process include identifying climate risks within the watershed and systemwide vulnerabilities, including identification of key stakeholders and potentially impacted communities. This process also includes identifying key interdependences across different parts of the system as well as with other utilities and agencies. The process also requires taking a holistic approach to vulnerability assessment, focusing the unit of analysis at the watershed level. Inherent in this process is mapping potential critical assets that may be impacted by multiple hazards (taking a multi-hazard approach) and understanding how these vulnerabilities may influence the ability to provide key services to the utilities’ communities and impact the natural environment. A second major component is developing projects to reduce vulnerability and build adaptive capacity, and collaboratively identify and apply projects that help achieve both public and private sector targets. Brown and Caldwell will present a framework elaborating such a process for private-public partnership and CIP optimization. The framework supports both achieving longer-term planning for greater sustainability at the watershed level and enhancing resilience by optimizing projects and project resources to reduce vulnerability by building adaptive capacity.


Author Bio

Dr. Sprague specializes in climate change planning, risk and resilience, and water resource planning and policy. This experience includes a variety of work within the US and internationally, with technical knowledge in regional policy and planning (e.g., drought contingency planning and groundwater sustainability), risk and resilience assessments and emergency response planning, climate change analysis and vulnerability assessments, and public outreach & engagement. She serves as Brown and Caldwell's internal Climate Change & Resilience strategy lead. Since 2010, she has continued to teach and research climate change adaptation, water risks, and resilience and has recently published a contribution to the Palgrave Handbook of Climate Resilient Societies for Springer, Nature (2021) as well as a book on Building Resilience and Planning for Extreme Water-Related Events.