Extreme Weather Impacts on Infrastructure Integrity, Operations and Maintenance, and Water Quality


  • Ben Wright P.E., Ben Stanford, Ph.D., Jan Routt, P.E., Jean Debroux, Ph.D., Stuart Khan, Ph.D.

Water utility infrastructure and operations procedures are generally designed to enable utilities to reduce the risks from typical, region-specific, extreme weather events to an acceptable level, but a thorough understanding of the potential risks from atypical weather is necessary for proper planning in the future. Extreme weather-related events are of primary concern to utilities, since they could affect supply availability, quality, treatability, and infrastructure integrity/function which may in-turn affect, service reliability, regulatory compliance, consumer perception, and overall costs.

In the last few decades there has been anecdotal evidence that low-probability weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves, etc.) are recurring more frequently, and are affecting different regions than in the past. As population growth and economic expansion occurs along with our increased understanding of ecological needs for and human impacts on natural resources, infrastructure systems will continue to become more complex due to increased constraints and demands. As complexity increases so will sensitivity to disruption from events that occur outside of the norm.

This presentation will describe the collaborative approach and preliminary results from an international drinking water research effort (Water Research Foundation 4324 “Water Quality Impacts of Extreme Weather-Related Events”), which is seeking to better characterize and quantify effects of extreme weather-related events on water systems. Preliminary results from the two workshops (U.S. and Australia), literature review, participant questionnaires, interviews, and relevant data-gathering will be summarized in this presentation. Case study examples and emerging data patterns will be highlighted. Examples will be provided of tools/approaches in use to characterize and quantify extreme weather effects on operational complexity, and infrastructure integrity. Information shared will be useful to drinking water professionals in their real-time response to extreme weather-related events, and for adapting design and operations for long term resilience.

To request a copy of the full paper, please contact the author at bstanford@hazenandsawyer.com.

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