In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources


    Cities and metropolitan areas are home to 80 percent of the U.S. population and face unique vulnerabilities to climate change. These urban areas have extensive infrastructure systems to provide the energy, clean water, transportation, and communication services needed by their residents. These systems are particularly vulnerable to climate-related disruptions because they are highly interdependent. If a storm knocks out the electric power supply, for example, water treatment plants and pumping stations are affected, communication systems for air traffic control are interrupted, and city residents may be stranded in hot, high-rise apartments.

    Moreover, the infrastructure in many cities is aging and in need of repair or replacement; in many cases, demand now exceeds the level for which these systems were designed. In addition, cities, with their high population density and areas of intense poverty, face special challenges. Many of their residents are particularly vulnerable to climate disasters because of their socioeconomic status, age, gender, health, race or ethnicity.

    Recent extreme weather events have underscored the vulnerability of our urban populations and infrastructure. The Hurricane Sandy experience, for example, illustrated the cascading effect of the loss of power, which left thousands trapped on the upper floors of their high-rise buildings, knocked out power at sewage treatment plants, and shut down life support systems vital to people's survival.  

    The following discussion looks at the climate impacts and adaptive solutions for two key infrastructure systems -- energy and water.


    Most of the country's energy infrastructure was built for our past and current climate and is highly vulnerable to the more frequent and intense weather events that are projected with climate change.

    Water-energy nexus. Changes in water availability may be particularly significant because of the interdependency between energy and water. Fossil fuel and nuclear power plants rely heavily on water for cooling. Hydraulic fracturing requires significant amounts of water, and hydropower, by definition, is affected by the availability of water. On the flip side, water management depends heavily on energy supplies for pumping, distribution, and treatment of drinking water and wastewater.

    Higher temperatures are expected to increase the demand for electricity for air conditioning and are likely to strain the capacity of the electricity infrastructure. Heat, increased evaporation, drier soils, and lack of rain can lead to higher irrigation demands, which add stress on the water resources required for enegy production. Interdependencies within the energy sector and linkages between the energy sector and other sectors (e.g., transportation, communications) mean that disruptions in one sector can lead to cascading disruptions in other sectors.

    As the World Business Council for Sustainable Development notes, "climate change acts as an amplifier of the already-intense competition over water and energy resources." Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, and American Rivers are among the many organizations calling attention to the interconnection between water and energy.

    Adaptive solutions fall into two broad categories.


    Climate challenges for the water sector include increased temperatures, greater variability in precipitation patterns, increased frequency and intensity of storms, and rising sea levels. Secondary effects include changing customer demands, increasing use of water for energy and agricultural production, and shifts in population and economic activity around the country.

    Water supply could be affected, for example --

    Wastewater systems could be affected, for example --

    Stormwater and drainage systems could be affected, for example --

    Adaptive solutions include the following --

    It's important to note that water and wastewater utilities use a substantial amount of energy to transport, treat, and distribute water and wastewater. (See water-energy nexus discussion above.) By taking steps to conserve water and improve water use efficiency, water utilities can save money and energy while also reducing GHG emissions.


    Start by reviewing the general information about What Your League Can Do To Promote Climate Preparedness In Your Community.

    Examples of programs and initiatives to improve resiliency to climate impacts on energy and water systems. 


    Infrastructure -- General

    Energy Resources

    Water-Energy Nexus

    Water Resources

    Last updated: May 26, 2014