Planning Better for a Changing Climate
EPA researchers and partners develop assessment tools to help communities make better informed environmental decisions.
With temperatures skyrocketing across most of the country, this summer's drought is one for the record books. In late July, more than 80% of the United States was in drought – once considered a rare occurrence. Data show that the hot is getting hotter and when it rains, it pours. Extreme weather events like these can affect existing environmental issues such as water quality, quantity, and pollution. But how can we understand and predict ways that these types of changes might impact us?
EPA researchers and partners recently developed two assessment tools, the BASINS Climate Assessment Tool (BASINS-CAT) and the Water Erosion Prediction Project Climate Assessment Tool (WEPPCAT), to help local communities make better informed environmental decisions.
The BASINS-CAT and WEPPCAT tools allow users to create a wide range of climate change scenarios. These scenarios can then be used as inputs to two existing water simulation models called BASINS and WEPP. BASINS, an EPA model, supports assessments of watershed land-use change, pollutant discharges, and management practices on water quality. WEPP, created by the US Department of Agriculture, simulates soil erosion and sediment yield from agricultural areas.
By using BASINS-CAT and WEPPCAT as inputs to BASINS and WEPP, users can run different computer simulations to assess how streamflow or water quality in a specific watershed might change. The results will help us understand how water system characteristics such as streamflow, water quality, and soil erosion could be affected by changes in climate, land use, and management practices.
BASINS-CAT and WEPPCAT are important tools to decision makers, such as watershed managers, who can use the information to prioritize resources and make planning decisions as well as to reduce risks associated with climate change and extreme weather events.