Water, Sanitation, and Climate Change in the United States Series 

Over the past 40 years water-related billion-dollar climate disasters show an increasing trend with risks borne disproportionately by frontline communities. 

Source: Water Chapter, Fifth National Climate Assessment, Payton et al. 2023 

Severe California drought from 2012 to 2016 led to reports of water-supply outages in more than 4,000 shallow wells serving households and small communities across the state.

Source: Feinstein et al. 2017 

Critical water infrastructure in many parts of the US is reaching the end of its design life compounding climate change risks especially for frontline communities. 

Source: Water Chapter, Fourth National Climate Assessment, Lall et al. (2018) 

Series Overview 

Climate change, an ever-growing crisis, is damaging water systems and challenging access to clean drinking water and sanitation in the United States. As the climate crisis escalates, so do the risks: an altered water cycle, more extreme weather events, and deteriorating water infrastructure compounding stressors for already overburdened and under-resourced communities. 

The Pacific Institute, DigDeep, and the Center for Water Security and Cooperation have decades of combined experience working with and for communities to address water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenges in the US. Together, we have united to support the realization of equitable, sustainable, climate-resilient WASH for all. 

To this end, this series aims to contribute to closing knowledge gaps at the intersection of climate change, water, and equity in the United States. While individually, these topics have received substantial attention, more work is needed to elucidate how and where they intersect. This series addresses this gap by synthesizing the state of knowledge on the impacts of climate change to water and sanitation for frontline communities, laws and policies that address water, sanitation, and climate change, and strategies and approaches to achieving equitable, climate-resilient water and sanitation.  


This report delves into how six key climate phenomena – extreme temperatures, drought, inland flooding, sea level rise, extreme storms, and wildfires – are each affecting water resources and water and sanitation systems. It offers a synthesis of these impacts, highlighting the disproportionate burdens shouldered by frontline communities. It aims to provide a foundational understanding of the complex relationship between climate change, water, and equity, setting the stage for further exploration in subsequent reports.  

“By delving into the intersection of water, sanitation, and climate change, this report makes a unique contribution to our understanding of a national crisis. It highlights the necessity of addressing climate impacts in tandem with water and sanitation issues to effectively support frontline communities.”  

Alexandra Campbell-Ferrari, Executive Director of the Center for Water Security and Cooperation.  

Download the Report

Blog | The Climate Crisis is a WASH* Crisis 

This blog provides a short summary of some early key findings and examples of climate impacts to WASH for frontline communities in the United States. 

“The staggering reality that millions in the U.S. lack basic water services underscores the urgent need for systemic change. We’re at a critical juncture where investing in climate-resilient water infrastructure is not just a necessity for public health but a fundamental step towards social justice and equity.”

Kimberly Lemme, Executive Director of DigDeep Labs. 

Read the Blog

To learn more about this series write to:
wce@pacinst.org with ‘Water, Sanitation & Climate Change in US Series’ in the subject line 

Media Highlights

As water rates soar, legislators seek funding for assistance – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com) 

Climate change worsens water access for US frontline communities, says study (smartwatermagazine.com) 

Cambio climático empeora acceso a agua y saneamiento en comunidades rurales y pobres (Climate change worsens access to water and sanitation in rural and poor communities) | AP News

The Water Crisis in the Dominican Republic: Urgent Reforms, Invest… (medriva.com) 


Law and Policies that Address Water, Sanitation, and Climate Change: Water, Sanitation, and Climate Change in the United States, Part 2 

Part 2 of this series will examine the laws and policies in the United States that govern and inform water and sanitation service provision and infrastructure, and whether and how they address climate change.  

Achieving Equitable, Climate-Resilient Water and Sanitation for Frontline Communities: Water, Sanitation, and Climate Change in the United States, Part 3 

Part 3 of this series will identify the attributes of equitable, climate-resilient water and sanitation systems, as well as strategies and approaches for achieving it.  

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