• Climate research, policymaker engagement needed to help prepare for climate change effects on water supply, experts say
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 28, 2010 -- Leaders in water management and climate change today embark on an ambitious campaign to push water adaptation issues on to the American policy agenda with Climate Change Impacts on Water: An International Adaptation Forum. The two-day meeting in the nation's capital is the first of its kind, bringing together more than 200 key policy and climate officials, water system executives, scientists and subject leaders from around the world to share their experiences and ideas on a range of topics, from how to adapt water management to climate change to getting results from local and national policy makers.
"American leadership on water adaptation issues is at the ground level, and we're tapping the international community to raise the profile and importance of adaptation among our nation's political leadership," said Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. "Climate change may be commonly recognized today, but no one is talking about its affects on water supply, despite the broad consequences on everything from our quality of life to our economy."
The forum is designed to help water utilities and resource managers identify and promote successful responses to the evident and growing climate-related challenges to water security and sustainability. American cities from Atlanta to Las Vegas are already dealing with severe water shortages, while other cities struggle with rising sea levels or catastrophic water events like hurricanes or excessive stormwater runoff.
One forum call to action is for greater engagement from local, regional, and national government. Though water management happens at the local and regional level, a national commitment to climate research and federal resources can give water managers tools for better forecasting and planning.
"Water resource management is about planning for the worst. But our worst case scenarios are getting more severe as climate change introduces a significant additional element of uncertainty. How do you plan 30 years out when you don't know how bad it's going to get?" said VanDe Hei. "We need federal support for funding, research and tools for water adaptation planning at the local level."
The United States has geographic diversity unlike any place on Earth, so the forum is featuring speakers from a variety of climates. Featured speakers come from hot and dry climates like Australia and Jordan, mountainous snowpack dominated areas like Switzerland and Canada, and rain dominant and coastal areas like Singapore and The Netherlands. Each brings a different experience and expertise that has an application to American adaptation issues.
The forum includes research panel discussions, case studies, and the sharing of best practices for water adaptation. The event concludes with a declaration of adaptation principles for utilities to consider in moving forward to address climate change within their water systems.
"Municipalities and regional water utilities are on the front lines of this charge, but we can't do it alone. We see that this is going to take government commitment, involvement, research and funding at all levels. We need the political leadership of this country to step up and support us, and the forum will help identify the path forward," said VanDe Hei.
The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) is the definitive voice for the nation's largest publicly owned drinking water systems on regulatory, legislative and security issues. The Association supports strong federal action to research and respond to the impacts of global climate change upon the nation's drinking water supplies.
About Climate Change Impacts on Water: An International Adaptation Forum
The Forum is organized by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the Water Research Foundation, the International Water Association, the Water Utility Climate Alliance and the American Water Works Association.