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Task Force Urged to Support Research On Climate Change Impacts on Water Cycle

Thursday, February 21, 2013

By Amena H. Saiyid

 

Drinking water utility groups Feb. 20 urged a House-Senate task force to support establishing a federal research and monitoring program that would pinpoint the impacts of climate change on the water cycle.

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the American Water Works Association wrote separate letters saying that accurate modeling is needed to gauge water quality and quantity impacts so utilities can decide how best to leverage their resources.

The suggestions were made separately to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), chairmen of the recently formed House-Senate task force on climate change.

Waxman and Whitehouse had asked about 300 organizations, including AMWA, AWWA, and corporations in late January to provide their “ideas for actions that the federal government can take to address climate change.”

Tom Curtis, AWWA deputy executive director for government affairs, told the lawmakers, “We do have standing concerns about how climate change may affect water resources, water infrastructure, and utility energy consumption in treatment and distribution processes.”

Curtis said modeling should be refined to gauge the impact of climate change on the hydrologic cycle at the regional level to help water utility managers.

“Such modeling would not only help water utilities prepare for changes in the quantity and quality of source waters, but also help them design for future dramatic weather events or trends,” Curtis wrote.

Need to Plan for Changing Water Needs

The effects of climate change are expected to result in droughts, increased forest fires, more intense storms, floods and sea level rise, and rising water temperatures that can lead to excessive algae growth and eutrophication in reservoirs.

“In light of these changing conditions, communities must begin planning now to align their available drinking water sources with their long-term water quality and quantity needs,” wrote Diane VanDe Hei, AMWA executive director.

“Because the impacts of global climate change will vary widely from region to region, water utility managers require region-specific climate information and monitoring data that illustrate changes that are already occurring, as well as advanced models that forecast what additional changes will come with time, and what they will mean for their communities and their water supplies,” VanDe Hei said.

Support for Capps Bill

In addition to the letters sent to the task force, AMWA and AWWA joined a coalition of water utility, conservation, and environmental groups in writing to Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) on Feb. 20 to express their “strong support” for the Water Infrastructure Resiliency Sustainability Act (H.R. 765).

The bill, which Capps introduced Feb. 16, would provide $250 million in grants to help wastewater, drinking water, and stormwater utilities prepare for climate-related impacts on their operations.

The groups that wrote to Capps include the American Public Works Association, American Rivers, the Association of California Water Agencies, the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the National Association of Water Companies, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Water Environment Federation, the WateReuse Association, the Water Utility Climate Alliance, and the World Wildlife Fund.