Fredericktown, Missouri Prepares for Climate Change Drought Risk

Fredericktown, Missouri Prepares for Climate Change Drought Risk

Project Summary

Fredericktown, Missouri’s drinking water utility services the town of just over 4,000 residents with an average demand of 500,000 gallons per day. Fredericktown had concerns about the resilience of its water system, specifically regarding the amount of sediment deposition and contaminate influx from heavy rain events that affected source water storage capacity. To complicate its concerns, the region suffered a drought in 2012 which left much of the system’s lake-bed exposed, reduced storage capacity and the utility would have been critically low on available source water if not for a release from an upstream lake.

Recognizing the severity of other droughts at the time in Texas and California, and understanding that drought risk may increase in the future, utility officials realized they needed to prepare for the future. Using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Ready Evaluation and Assessment Tool (CREAT), the utility was able to project potential climate impacts to their system out to beyond the year 2035. Initial results of this tool showed that the utility not only had to be concerned about future drought, but may also need to prepare for flooding caused by more extreme precipitation events. Using the CREAT participatory process, the utility was able to identify several potential adaptation strategies.

Among those considered were implementation of a water conservation strategy, entering into a water-rights agreement, lake dredging and development of a water reclamation system. Fredericktown pursued the short-term strategy of developing a contract to use water from a nearby lake during dry periods. The utility operators, recognizing that upstream water releases and a short-term contract may not be sufficient under future conditions, also identified a potential long-term adaptation action to dredge the lake. The CREAT Tool enabled the city of Fredericktown to assess climate vulnerability, pursue a short-term resiliency action and identify a long-term climate adaptation strategy.


To start, Fredericktown identified its climate risk by recognizing their current source water vulnerabilities from levels of erosion, sedimentation and contaminate influx from heavy but sporadic rain events and the increased risk of drought. Together, these current threats not only increased the turbidity of the water but reduced the volume of lake storage and could have played a role contributing to greater treatment costs. 

Since current vulnerabilities may be exacerbated by climate change, Fredericktown decided to better understand its climate vulnerability. The City used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Ready Evaluation and Assessment Tool (CREAT) to project potential climate impacts to their system out to 2030 and beyond. They identified vulnerability to increased precipitation events - namely storms - and changing precipitation patterns including a vulnerability to drought and the corresponding vulnerabilities to water quality and sedimentation.

To respond to these findings, Fredericktown adopted the short term resilience strategy of contracting with an upstream organization to release water during shortages. The City also planned for long term adaptation by exploring the idea of increasing water storage capacity by dredging the lake.

Applicable Tools

Similar Case Studies

  • To see how another Midwestern community acted to reduce future vulnerability, see the Iowa City case study on choosing to close a wastewater facility.
  • To see how another utility rebuilt in a vulnerable location but took steps to prepare their facility and adapt to concerns over flooding and sedimentation, see the Anacortes, Washington case study.
  • For an example on how a wastewater utility identified projected climate impacts and adaptation strategies, and then partnered with relevant entities to adopt these strategies and reduce stormwater impacts and combined sewer overflows, view the Camden, New Jersey case study.