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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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


Cynthia Rosenzweig

David Major

Kate Demong

Christina Stanton

Radley Horton

Melissa Stults

+1 more
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change


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.