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Managing climate change risks in New York City’s water system: assessment and adaptation planning

Abstract

Managing risk by adapting long-lived infrastructure to the effects of climate change must become a regular part of planning for water supply, sewer, wastewater treatment, and other urban infrastructure during this century. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), the agency responsible for managing New York City’s (NYC) water supply, sewer, and wastewater treatment systems, has developed a climate risk management framework through its Climate Change Task Force, a government-university collaborative effort. Its purpose is to ensure that NYCDEP’s strategic and capital planning take into account the potential risks of climate change—sea-level rise, higher temperature, increases in extreme events, changes in drought and flood frequency and intensity, and changing precipitation patterns—on NYC’s water systems. This approach will enable NYCDEP and other agencies to incorporate adaptations to the risks of climate change into their management, investment, and policy decisions over the long term as a regular part of their planning activities. The framework includes a 9-step Adaptation Assessment procedure. Potential climate change adaptations are divided into management, infrastructure, and policy categories, and are assessed by their relevance in terms of climate change time-frame (immediate, medium, and long term), the capital cycle, costs, and other risks. The approach focuses on the water supply, sewer, and wastewater treatment systems of NYC, but has wide application for other urban areas, especially those in coastal locations.

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Acknowledgements

The Authors wish to acknowledge the NYCDEP, the New York City Water Board, and the Columbia Earth Institute for support, and to thank their colleagues on the NYCDEP Climate Change Task Force, and at the Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research, especially Christopher Shashkin, Jose Mendoza, and Eden Licardo. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors; the research and evaluation of science and planning elements in the risk management framework described do not necessarily represent official policy.

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Correspondence to David C. Major.

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Rosenzweig, C., Major, D.C., Demong, K. et al. Managing climate change risks in New York City’s water system: assessment and adaptation planning. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 12, 1391–1409 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-006-9070-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-006-9070-5

Keywords

  • Adaptation to climate change
  • Climate mitigation
  • Risk management
  • Sea-level rise
  • Urban infrastructure
  • Water quality
  • Water supply
  • Sewer systems
  • Wastewater treatment