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UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS | ALASKA CENTER for CLIMATE ASSESSMENT & POLICY

Building resilience to extreme events and water hazard planning in rural communities

We take an interdisciplinary approach to water and wastewater resilience to extreme flooding and precipitation events in rural, coastal communities. Small, rural coastal communities are similarly exposed to extreme precipitation and flood events as larger, urban centers, yet they often face added vulnerability due to lack of capacity, resources, and expertise.

Research indicates that creating and maintaining robust networks can reduce risk to extreme events. Extreme events have large impacts on rural, predominantly indigenous coastal communities in remote, rural Alaska. These include coastal erosion, infrastructure damage, and health threats when storm surge floods inundate sewage lagoons. Rural communities in the Gulf Coast face similar challenges.

Our objectives are to:

  • compare water and wastewater manager information needs related to extreme precipitation and flooding events at sub-seasonal, seasonal, and annual time scales to available model outputs; and
  • identify key elements of regional networking, communication, and collaboration for small rural communities that can reduce risk and increase regional resilience to extreme events.

The project will be conducted in partnership with the National Weather Service and Sea Grant and in close collaboration with a team of project advisors, including representatives from the Water Environment and Re-use Foundation and the EPA Climate Ready Water Communities program and regionally relevant scientists and stakeholder groups.

We will examine three case study communities: Nome, Alaska, Bethel, Alaska, and Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana to interrogate water manager information needs in extreme event preparedness and response and compare these with existing climate model outputs.

The project will facilitate dialog between the scientific and water management communities through a series of webinars and disseminate project findings broadly through the networks and professional contacts of project partners, advisors, and the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences Assessments (RISA) program. Project lead PIs are also PIs for the Alaska and Gulf Coast RISAs: the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP) and the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP).

Building on existing, available products and tools, we will have practical project outputs that are designed with the guidance of our advisory team to be useful and relevant to rural water managers.