Sunday, December 16, 2007

Report Examines Impact of Climate Change on Drinking Water Supplies

From: Paul Schaefer, ENN


WASHINGTON - Warming of the earth's atmosphere will continue to put mounting pressure on America's drinking water sources, leading to diminishing supplies in some regions and flooding in others, according to an analysis released today by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), a nonprofit organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water systems in the United States.

AMWA's report, Implications of Climate Change for Urban Water Utilities, forecasts the likely impacts of climate change on water supplies in different regions of the U.S., such as an accelerated hydrologic cycle of evaporation and precipitation, water contamination, rising sea levels and pressure on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The report is available for viewing and download at AMWA's new climate change webpage,

The national debate on climate change has so far been limited to the effects of greenhouse gases," said AMWA Executive Director Diane VanDe Hei. "For community drinking water systems, climate change has broader implications. The question we ask is: 'To what extent will our water supplies be affected?'"

This report shows that climate change may pose great challenges to delivering limited amounts of clean and safe water to a rapidly growing population," added VanDe Hei.

Among the actions that the report suggests water systems take to prepare for the impacts of climate change are vulnerability assessments to identify short-term adaptation needs; cooperative planning and modeling efforts among utilities to devise strategies addressing likely regional water resource issues; and efforts by utilities to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.

"The ramifications identified in the report point to at least two key needs," said VanDe Hei. "Scientific research is needed to better understand the impacts of climate change on existing fresh water resources and to help develop and assess the affordability of alternative water sources -- such as reuse, recycling, conservation and desalination."

"In addition, an increased federal investment in water infrastructure is needed to help offset the costs of new supply development and capital projects to ensure that all Americans continue to have access to safe and affordable drinking water," she said.

In conjunction with the release of the report, AMWA's new climate change webpage will serve as a resource for water utility managers and policy makers seeking the latest information on the impacts of climate change on drinking water supplies. The page includes fact sheets and presentations on local impacts of climate change, and can be viewed at

Source: Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies

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