Hunter Water recognises that the risks and impacts associated with climate change present an enormous challenge for communities all around the world.
Response to climate change can be categorised in two main ways:
- Climate change mitigation - relates to developing strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
- Climate change adaptation - relates to the way that organisations and communities prepare for a future that is impacted as a result of climate change.
Climate Change Mitigation
The treatment and transportation of water and wastewater requires large amounts of energy and hence there is a strong nexus between water and energy within the urban water industry. Hunter Water recognises that energy is a valuable resource which is essential for its operations. Energy consumption and generation of greenhouse gases is a global environmental issue that requires mitigation to prevent major environmental, social and economic impacts.
Given the environmental and cost advantages of adopting efficient and responsible use of energy, Hunter Water has developed a Greenhouse Gas and Energy Management Policy that will make energy management a priority throughout the organisation.
The cornerstone of Hunter Water's Greenhouse Gas and Energy Management Policy is the objective to remain carbon stable between 2008-2013 and have no net annual increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The major focus to date has been on making significant improvements in the efficiency of Hunter Water's use of electricity. Hunter Water's core business, providing water and sewage services to the lower Hunter, consumes large amounts of electricity every year and hence there will be a strong focus to prioritise energy efficiency across existing assets and in the planning for new assets.
Hunter Water has developed a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Abatement Strategy. This strategy will look at energy optimisation initiatives and offset strategies to reduce our carbon footprint.
Historical net greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes CO2-equivalents)
Breakdown of Greenhouse gas emissions across Hunter Water's business
Climate Change Adaptation
By the nature of our business, water utilities such as Hunter Water are vulnerable to many risks posed by climate change. Sea level rise, changing climate, extreme weather events and bushfire are just some of the potential impacts associated with climate change that are likely to have major implications to the way Hunter Water plans its activities and operations.
By the same token Hunter Water is also well positioned to respond to the challenges of climate change due to fact that we operate a business that is inherently impacted by climate and weather and have consequently developed experience in managing extreme events associated with weather and variable climate. Good long term planning that incorporates climate change risk into decision making will be essential to ensure ongoing business resilience to an uncertain future.
Hunter Water's approach to climate change adaptation will require extensive cross divisional collaboration and external engagement. Given the broad nature of the potential impacts, leadership and carriage of the various issues will need to be shared across different groups within the organisation. Also within the region many stakeholders will be working in this area and it is vitally important that our efforts are integrated for a targeted and well coordinated regional response.
It is proposed that Hunter Water's approach to climate change adaptation shall be divided into three components with key focus areas in each component or phase.
Phase 1 - Vulnerability Mapping
Phase 2 - Building Resilience
Phase 3 - Adaptation Planning
Whilst the three phases are sequenced chronologically work will be required to occur concurrently across the three phases. It will be an iterative process with multiple feedback loops and revision of strategies as our knowledge improves over time.
A summary of Hunter Water's approach to climate change adaptation is outlined in the attached diagram.