A groundbreaking collaboration of scientists, policy advisers and local practitioners

HRWC is bringing together community partners up and down the river to examine the topic of a changing climate and how communities in the watershed, and Michigan, can maintain quality of life under projected scenarios.

Flooding May 2018 Hudson Mills
The familiar patterns of rainfall, snow, and our four seasons are becoming less recognizable.

County Officials, Public Works Directors, Municipal Planners, and Natural Areas Managers in the watershed are noticing how the increase of extreme temperature and precipitation events where they live and work is challenging how they do business and assess risk. They overwhelmingly feel ill-equipped to respond to this “weirdness” that results in overtaxed infrastructure, public health risks and costs to already-stressed community budgets.

The familiar patterns of rainfall, snow, and our four seasons are becoming less recognizable.

Strategic Partnerships

HRWC has assembled a team uniquely qualified to provide information, resources, and support to key sectors in our communities. The sectors are:


for practitioners involved with water utilities, wastewater treatment facilities, stormwater management


for dam operators, fisheries biologists, and hydrologists


for land managers involved with land preservation, wetland restoration, and floodplains management

HRWC and GLISA partnered to equip participants with the information they need to make good decisions about adapting to climate change impacts. The groups reviewed various climate scenarios, discussed best practices and case studies on adaptation strategies and gained commitments for action. The project strives to create “climate-resilient communities” that know how to reduce their vulnerability and risk associated with current and forecasted conditions.


Sector groups established and are pursuing the following adaptation strategies:

The Water Infrastructure team is advocating for precipitation frequency data that reflects the best available climatic information. Precipitation frequency curves establish the severity, duration and probability of occurrence of storm events and form the basis of many decisions such as storm drain sizing and definition of floodplains. The team also established a list of “no-regrets” actions that if pursued would create resiliency to climate change.

The In-Stream Flows team established a network of dam operators to better coordinate the management of flows in the river in anticipation of more extreme flow conditions. The network facilitates improved day-to-day management of individual dams, the river as a whole and improves readiness for flood conditions and drought.

  • Download report: Improving information access and communication among dam operations of the Huron River mainstem

The Natural Infrastructure team investigated how key tree species in the watershed are expected to be impacted by changing temperature and precipitation regimes. Understanding if future conditions are expected to be favorable or unfavorable to various species will give insights as to how natural communities may change. This has implications for acquisition, management and restoration of natural lands.

  • Download report: Review of climate impacts to tree species of the Huron River watershed
  • Tree Resilience Toolkit: A primer on climate impacts and resiliency strategies for tree species of the Huron River watershed. This webpage incorporates data from the Natural Infrastructure report with emerging management options for improving climate resiliency within our area’s tree and forest resources.

Model Approach for Rivers and Watersheds

Through this project, HRWC has created a model watershed process to address local climate change impacts that takes participants in each sector group through a series of facilitated discussions to accomplish the following:

  • Provide participants with the most up-to-date predictions of how climate trends likely will impact the watershed, in general and specific to each sector;
  • Explore participants’ programmatic capabilities to address climate change, and what activities and programs to plan for climate change are already underway in the watershed;
  • Share best practices for addressing impacts from climate change in each sector and consider potential projects or initiatives that would be effective and feasible at preparing communities for climate change;
  • Identify what participants need (resources, barriers removed, policies changed) to successfully implement these best practices, projects, and initiatives; and
  • Create a training opportunity for peer organizations in Michigan to lead parallel efforts in their watersheds.

This approach has been published in a special issue of Climate Risk Management. Boundary organizations to boundary chains: Prospects for advancing climate science application.

Contributions from our funders make the work possible

Mott Foundation, Friedman Family Foundation, City of Ann Arbor, Porter Family Foundation, Esperance Family Foundation, Upton Foundation, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, and GLISA

Contact Rebecca Esselman for more information.