Using EPA Tools and Data Services to Inform Changes to Design Storm Definitions for Wastewater Utilities based on Climate Model Projections

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Jerry S Fries, Computer Sciences Corporation, Stennis Space Center, MS, United States, Michael Tryby, Environmental Protection Agency Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, United States and Curt Baranowski, Environmental Protection Agency Washington DC, Washington, DC, United States
Extreme precipitation events can cause significant impacts to drinking water and wastewater utilities, including facility damage, water quality impacts, service interruptions and potential risks to human health and the environment due to localized flooding and combined sewer overflows (CSOs). These impacts will become more pronounced with the projected increases in frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events due to climate change.

To model the impacts of extreme precipitation events, wastewater utilities often develop Intensity, Duration, and Frequency (IDF) rainfall curves and “design storms” for use in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Storm Water Management Model (SWMM). Wastewater utilities use SWMM for planning, analysis, and facility design related to stormwater runoff, combined and sanitary sewers, and other drainage systems in urban and non-urban areas. SWMM tracks (1) the quantity and quality of runoff made within each sub‐catchment; and (2) the flow rate, flow depth, and quality of water in each pipe and channel during a simulation period made up of multiple time steps.

In its current format, EPA SWMM does not consider climate change projection data. Climate change may affect the relationship between intensity, duration, and frequency described by past rainfall events. Therefore, EPA is integrating climate projection data available in the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT) into SWMM. CREAT is a climate risk assessment tool for utilities that provides downscaled climate change projection data for changes in the amount of rainfall in a 24-hour period for various extreme precipitation events (e.g., from 5-year to 100-year storm events). Incorporating climate change projections into SWMM will provide wastewater utilities with more comprehensive data they can use in planning for future storm events, thereby reducing the impacts to the utility and customers served from flooding and stormwater issues.