Photo courtesy of USACE
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting several studies on the effects of climate change, including one in the Rio Grande River Basin shown here.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, its entire portfolio of existing and proposed civil-works water-resources infrastructure projects and programs could be affected by climate change.

As a result, Jo Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, released a policy statement in June 2011 that called for integrating climate change and adaptation into all the projects the Corps does.

The Corps established a team and several committees that are dedicated to developing climate-change strategies and adaptation plans. They work closely with other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a coordinated approach that uses the best "actionable" science.


Kate White, the Corp's senior lead for global and climate change, says part of the Corp's mission under the climate-change policy statement requires "us to consider the potential impacts that might hinder us from being able to continue to perform as desired." So, the Corps currently is taking steps to identify measures that can be taken to ensure there are "several layers of defense" to provide resiliency.

"Interestingly, what we have found is that sometimes, when we evaluate our mission and operations at a particular location and when we evaluate those against the impacts of climate change, we may find that we're robust" already, she says.

The Corps is conducting several targeted pilot studies that will help build its knowledge of how changing weather patterns will affect specific aspects of water supply and demand, water quality, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, coastal zone functioning and ecosystem functioning.

"Each pilot has a central question because we're trying to focus on just one particular aspect so that, once they learned about that location, that [knowledge] could be transferred elsewhere," White says.

The pilot projects will help inform future policy guidance, White says.

To see the entire feature on Climage Change, see ENR's cover story, which is one in a series.