Environment News Service (ENS)

Big US city water agencies form new national climate alliance


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

Realizing that 'climate change poses a major long-term challenge to delivering high quality drinking water,' eight of the nation's largest water agencies today announced the formation of an unprecedented coalition, the Water Utility Climate Alliance.

The alliance, which supplies drinking water to more than 36 million people, will work to improve research into the impacts of climate change on water utilities. Members will develop strategies for adapting to climate change and implement tactics to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

From east to west, WUCA Members are - the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Denver Water, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and on the West Coast the Portland Water Bureau, Seattle Public Utilities, the San Diego County Water Authority, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

'Water utilities are among the first responders to the effects of climate change,' said Susan Leal, general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which chairs the WUCA.

'Our systems are facing risk due to diminishing snowpack, bigger storms, more frequent drought and rising sea levels. We need to be organized to respond to these risks - that's why we've formed this alliance.'

Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said, 'Water agencies throughout the nation will invest hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure over the next 15 years alone, and those investments must be informed by climate projections that are as accurate as possible.'

Emily Lloyd, commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, said, 'We need the best possible research to enhance our understanding of how climate change will impact water supplies, precipitation patterns, hydrology and water quality.'

In its first official act, the WUCA provided comment today on the 'Summary of Revised Research Plan' prepared by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, a slate of 13 federal agencies with climate change research responsibilities.

The WUCA identified several key research needs that would improve the ability of the drinking water industry to develop strategies to cope with potential impacts of climate change.

The WUCA is urging the Climate Change Science Program, and all other researchers and scientists in the climate-change field, to reduce the uncertainty in climate change projections by improving and refining global climate models and applying them at the regional or local level.

The utilities say scientists should enhance the collection, maintenance and accessibility of information, making the data more useful for decision-making purposes and ensure that water providers worldwide have access to consistent climate data.

They need tools for planning, decision-making and policy-making that can accommodate deep uncertainty and the potential for abrupt climate changes, the utilities say.

And finally, the WUCA members would like to see coordination of international research efforts, particularly with those countries that are already experiencing the effects of climate change, such as Australia.

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