Preparing Australia’s infrastructure to withstand extreme climatic events

Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA)
Tuesday, 07 May, 2013

Water is involved in every extreme climatic event. But with $120 billion of assets to manage, how can a water utility prioritise and prepare for risks to that infrastructure, 70% of which is underground?

With funding from the Federal Government Coastal Adaptation Decision Pathways program, the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) has recognised this and has released a tool called AdaptWater. Built upon extensive work from Sydney Water, the tool enables water utilities to identify what infrastructure is likely to be at risk during events like floods, bushfires, high winds and heatwaves, and assess different costed adaptation options to manage that risk.

WSAA Executive Director Adam Lovell states: “We have seen a marked increase in the occurrence of extreme events and are now able to identify where investment is needed before facing a crisis. Our members operate around 260,000 km of pipeline and hundreds of water and sewage treatment facilities. Ensuring these assets perform reliably under climate change will be an important outcome of the AdaptWater tool.”

AdaptWater is a climate change adaptation quantification and option assessment tool for the Australian water industry owned and maintained by WSAA. As a part of the pilot project, the tool was tested by six WSAA members throughout Australia. The largest study examined Sydney Water’s water and sewerage assets in the Illawarra region of NSW.

“The tool was developed by ClimateRisk, so we have utilised world-leading climate change adaptation expertise and the most up-to-date climate change data, which means that water utilities can assess short- to long-term risk to infrastructure,” said Lovell.

The project received funding from the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIICCSRTE), and from WSAA members, and will deliver efficient spending outcomes for government, regulators and customers.

“Risk associated with climate change can be considered alongside other quantified risks within the decision-making process, including system risks, engineering risks and operational risks; this allows utilities to facilitate more informed decisions within projects. Being able to tackle the highest priorities and manage capital expenditure will also help reduce upward pressure on customers’ bills,” concludes Lovell.

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