Urban water systems in California will need to adapt in response to changing conditions including climate change, population growth, aging infrastructure, and other challenges. State leaders must develop innovative ways to manage water quality, drinking water supplies, wastewater, storm water, flood control, and other aspects of urban water, and to identify beneficial linkages among them. This initiative explores these integrated challenges. One critical and under explored area of research is the connection between advances in technology and management methods, and the legal and economic developments necessary for their implementation.
In many regions of the world, urban water systems will need to transition into fundamentally different forms to address current stressors and meet impending challenges—faster innovation will need to be part of these transitions. The results in this report reveal insights about the attitudes towards innovation among decision makers in the wastewater sector, and how perceptions at the level of individual managers might create disincentives for experimentation.
Although green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is critical to solving stormwater management challenges, GSI is evolving technology with inconsistent performance and uncertain costs. Our report recommends enhancing learning from local implementation efforts to address knowledge gaps and speed cost-effective deployment. We identify key actions the EPA and state water quality authorities can take to help drive data collection and sharing.
Arguably, the main barriers to developing the new technologies and management practices necessary to meet emerging challenges in the water sector will be institutional rather than technical. In collaboration with ReNUWIt researchers and others, we are working to characterize barriers to innovation, and opportunities to overcome them, including legal, regulatory, social, financial, governance, and others. We have produced a “most read” article that develops a framework for forthcoming studies on the institutional elements of innovation at various scales. We have also investigated potable water reuse for water supply augmentation, using the concept of legitimacy to develop a broader framework for what is necessary to implement water reuse projects.
As adaptation becomes more tightly integrated into the range of responses to climate change, understanding how knowledge of climate change impacts and vulnerabilities can be effectively used is essential both to direct research and to support action. This article reviews literature along an intellectual transect from knowledge of climate impacts on water systems to the influence of that knowledge on adaptation responses.