Hillsboro selected for EPA climate-change project

? Only 20 communities nationwide chosen.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that the city of Hillsboro is among a handful of cities that will receive training and technical assistance to help water utilities bolster their climate-change resilience and readiness.

Hillsboro was the only community in Kansas to be selected, and one of only two cities in EPA?s four-state Region 7 chosen to receive up to $30,000 in professional assistance. Fredericktown, Mo., with a population of 4,000, was the other city selected.

Nationwide, EPA will provide more than $600,000 worth of technical assistance and training for 20 communities across the country as part of the program.

?I think it?s just an opportunity to see how, as a water utility, we can provide water like in a drought situation,? said Larry Paine city administrator.

?Climate change isn?t a distant threat?it is already impacting communities across the country,? said Ken Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator for EPA?s Office of Water.

?EPA is helping water utilities plan for and adapt to these challenges to ensure that they can continue to meet their public health and environmental missions no matter what circumstances may arise in the future.?

Drinking water, wastewater and storm water utilities will participate in a multi-year program to prepare for potential issues resulting from climate change.

Challenges include droughts, more intense and frequent storms, flooding, sea-level rise and changes to water quality.

Communities will receive technical assistance in using EPA?s Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool, software that helps users identify assets, threats and adaptation options to help reduce risk from climate change.

?I think the hope for the practical outcome of the project nationwide, not just for Hillsboro, would be that we have some tools available to us to help us plan for the future when we?re doing projects,? said Morgan Marler, the city?s senior water treatment technician.

During each risk assessment, utilities will consider potential future climate-change issues in an effort to build more climate-ready and resilient water services and infrastructure.

Such risk assessments will, for instance, help utilities:

? use adaptation options to better protect critical pump stations from projected precipitation events;

? use conservation measures to prepare for projected reduced snowpack or less-frequent rainfall events; and

? prepare infrastructure for increased salinity to deal with projected sea-level rise.

These examples illustrate the variety of adaptation options utilities can identify and build into planning based on their risk assessments.

Marler said the program?s impact on the city would extend beyond her department.

?If we?re having intense rainfalls, like we?ve been seeing more of, we need to start looking at how we design streets and curbs and gutters, and how transfer rain water through the community so it doesn?t hinder any development or result in any flooding issues,? she said.

?We?re going to want to pool information for water, wastewater, streets, electrical utilities?but then also Tabor College, the hospital and the bigger industries located here.

?The community at large will benefit,? she said.

Both Paine and Marler believe Hillsboro was nominated for the program by the Kansas Department of Health And Environment.

?As I understood (KDHE) had six to eight different cities with different kinds of issues that were in play,? Paine said. ?EPA picked from the list of cities, Hillsboro.?

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