Water Resources Planner Teresa Sprague on Building Resilience

Water Resources Planner Teresa Sprague on Building Resilience

It’s almost impossible to watch the news without hearing about climate change lately. Leading up to the UN Climate Action Summit this fall, youth gathered across the globe protesting climate change. We’re sponsoring events such as this week’s Gulf of Maine 2050 International Symposium to address warming ocean waters. Our thought leaders, including Water Resources Planner Teresa Sprague, PhD, are presenting at events like the American Water Resources Association’s Summer Conference on Improving Water Infrastructure through Resilient Adaptation. As co-author of Building Resilience and Planning for Extreme Weather Events, Tess discussed her research and work with like-minded individuals at the Summer Conference. 

Written as an accessible resource geared toward scientists, urban planners, and water sector practitioners, Teresa explains, “It is really for anyone interested in the confluence of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and how our cities can understand and plan for resiliency.”

After earning her Master of Science from University of Oxford with focus on water science, policy, and management, Teresa pursued her Doctor of Philosophy in water risk governance at TU Dortmund University in Germany. Upon returning to California, Teresa gained further insight into resilient strategies in San Diego and San Francisco where she conducted fieldwork with the Master students she was teaching. She says, “It was helpful to bring these examples together with the cities of Solingen and Wuppertal, Germany, to understand universal commonalities in best practices and general approaches to addressing extreme weather events and building resilience at the city level.”

“Many of the Master students I taught were working in the industry as urban planners from developing countries. At the time, there didn’t seem to be a resource analyzing the current international frameworks and practices that used examples of local planning and policy in an accessible way for those new to the topic.”

Climate change is a widely discussed and often politically charged topic. The industry has begun to see action at the state and federal level to address the ongoing changes in climate, increasing intensity and frequency of storms, sea level rise, and more. In California, officials are developing a Water Resilience Portfolio and existing resources such as the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program (ICARP) and the Adaptation Clearinghouse are available. Projects including the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenges, Resilient Coastlines San Diego, and the Port of San Francisco’s Waterfront Resilience Program are serving as models on the West Coast for further efforts toward municipal resiliency. We’re anticipating more projects like these in addition to risk and vulnerability assessments for sea level rise, climate change action plans for permitting and renewal, as well as updates to criteria and content for ongoing planning projects.

“It will be exciting to see how work continues to develop coast to coast,” says Teresa. “I hope local government in the United States will also draw on international best practices to better understand how we can plan and manage extreme events today and in the future.” 

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