The Great Plains is projected to experience higher temperatures, increased
precipitation, and more frequent and intense storms, with a generally hotter
southern area and colder northern area. These projected changes pose
challenges to communities as they protect water and waste infrastructure,
protect air quality and public health, and protect wetlands. Many communities
are building resilience to the risks they face under current climatic conditions.
This fact sheet provides examples of communities that are going beyond
resilience to anticipate and prepare for future impacts.
          Environmental Projection
                            Moving Beyond Resilience to Adaptation
                            Climate change adaptation goes
                            beyond resilience by taking actions to
                            address future risks. Adaptation refers
                            to how communities anticipate, plan,
                            and prepare for a changing climate.
   Observed and Projected Changes in the Great Plains
                                                     Average Annual
           Intense storms have increased                    Temperature
                                             Observed Temperature
           Observed Change in Very Heavy Precipitation
                                            Average Annual
                                        Temperature Increases
                                                                                    Projected Temperature
                en a  
        e Great Plains experienced a 16% increase
      in the amount of precipitation falling in very
      heavy events (the heaviest 1%) from 1958 to
This map shows the average annual
temperature (F) from 1981 to 2010 in the
Great Plains.
 ie Great Plains is projected to
experience an increase in the average
annual temperature (F) for 2041 to
2070 compared to 1971 to 2000 under
a high emissions scenario.
 Protecting Critical Community Infrastructure
 Future projections for less total annual rainfall, less snowpack in the mountains, and earlier snowmelt mean that less water will
 likely be available during the summer months, especially in the northern areas. This will make it more difficult for water
 managers to satisfy water demands throughout the course of the year. Key vulnerabilities include:
    Higher temperatures  due to climate change can affect the amount of water in watersheds. Water system managers may
    need to adjust operations as surface water quantities change.
    Climate change can result in changes in water quality. Water system managers may need to use alternative treatment
    methods to meet water quality standards as the climate changes.
    Intense storms and droughts due to climate change can effect soil moisture (shrinking when dry and swelling when wet),
    posing risks to the structural integrity of water infrastructure.

 Adaptation  in Action

 In Helena, MT, the Missouri River and the TenMile Creek are the surface water sources for 85% of the city's water. The TenMile
 Creek has been the primary year-round water source and the Missouri River has been a summer water source. The TenMile
 Creek is becoming more vulnerable due to increased drought and forest fires. The city recognized "... the possible vulnerability
 of the system to a long-term warming trend ...," i.e., climate change. Therefore, Helena will switch these two water sources. The
 Missouri River  will become Helena's major year-round source and the TenMile creek will  become a supplemental summer water
 source. Both water treatment plants are being upgraded to handle the different quantities and qualities of water flowing
 through the  plants, so that Helena  can continue to provide reliable water services under future climatic conditions.

            GREAT PLAINS
Maintaining Air Quality and Public Health
Increased temperatures can exacerbate existing air quality concerns, including the prevalence of ground-level ozone. Public
health officials, emergency responders, and community leaders will face challenges to protect public health, especially for people
most vulnerable to these impacts, including the elderly, very young children, those with pre-existing medical conditions, and low-
income communities. Key vulnerabilities include:
   Higher temperatures can worsen ground-level ozone, affecting those with respiratory and heart conditions.
   More frequent and intense heat waves can result in increased heat stress, illness, and death.
   More frequent wildfires can degrade air quality and threaten human life.

Adaptation in Action
In Dallas, TX, more frequent heat waves, combined with the urban heat island effect, are
already degrading air quality and have led to several deaths. The city developed its
Sustainable Skylines Initiative with EPA and is increasing tree cover and vegetation to
provide shade and natural cooling. Using cool roof technologies, including green roofs,
white roofs, and more reflective roofing helps reduce heat absorption. Adding cooler and
more porous pavements helps the city manage stormwater runoff.

Protecting Cold Water Fisheries
        White roof at Dallas, TX, public school
Climate change is affecting wetlands in the northern tier of the Great Plains. These wetlands help recharge the High Plains
Aquifer System, the major source of drinking water for people living in the region. In the southern tier of the Great Plains, climate
change-induced sea level rise may increase the erosion and loss of coastal wetlands, which provide shellfish and habitat for
animals, remove pollutants, and reduce flooding. Key vulnerabilities include:
  Warmer temperatures due to climate change can increase evaporation and accelerate snow melt, leading to low stream flow,
   which, in turn, can degrade coldwaterfish habitat.
  Along the Texas coast, more frequent and intense precipitation, as well as sea level rise, may exceed the engineering design
   of solid and hazardous waste management systems, risking damage to nearby and downstream ecosystems.
  Warming ocean temperatures can cause increased algal blooms and northward shifts in fish and shellfish populations that
   depend on colder water temperatures, disrupting coastal ecosystems.

Adaptation in Action

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Wetlands Conservation Strategy
identifies climate change and drought as "extreme" concerns for state
wetlands' health. The mountainous Laramie Plains Wetlands Complex, an area
of more than 100,000 acres, stores water for drinking and supports cold water
fisheries. Among the recommended adaptation strategies are to analyze
wetland functions to better determine their unique qualities and potential for
conservation easements. Other strategies include establishing water-
harvesting features, e.g., such as windrows and shrub stands to accumulate
drifting snow, and on wetland construction sites, grade surface contours to
capture runoff and direct it into wetlands. Reconnecting fragmented habitats
can raise the water table and sustain healthier wetlands which are crucial to cold
water fisheries.
Laramie Plains Wetlands Complex-Wyoming (USGS)
 For a comprehensive view of projected climate changes in your region, consult:
                  JUNE 2016
                  OFFICE OF POLICY
                  EPA 230 F 16 016