The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) hosted a Water Resilience Summit last week, as part of Water Week 2014.
Following a number of discussions with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leadership earlier this year, NACWA and AMWA recognized the need to explore the legal, economic and practical challenges to utility climate change resilience and to explore collaborative solutions with federal agencies.
At the Summit, key municipal and federal agency leaders and economic experts engaged in a facilitated discussion expanding on three themes:
- Resilience, Risk Tolerance, and Long-Term Planning
- Constraints to Local Utility Resilience and Collaborative Ways to Overcome Barriers
- Financing and Funding for Resilience and Opportunities for Partnership
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy provided a keynote address at the Summit.
“From historic droughts that threaten water supplies to super storms that overwhelm sewer systems, the impacts of climate change are felt at the local level where we treat and manage our water,” said Administrator McCarthy. “That’s why EPA supports AMWA and NACWA’s leadership on building and designing resilient water systems that take climate change into account.”
“Confronted with drought and rising coastal waters, water utilities are planning and building resilience into their operations and infrastructure. Those who participated in the Water Resilience Summit are on the forefront of that work,” said Diane VanDe Hei, AMWA’s Executive Director. “Over the last day and a half, the leaders of those water utilities shared their experiences and offered recommendations for future partnership with federal agency officials.”
“Climate change is all about water. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made it clear that the issue of resilience is so vast and so important that municipalities and the federal government must come together to address it,” said Ken Kirk, NACWA’s Executive Director. “The Summit is just the beginning.”
In addition to utilities from coast to coast, federal agencies represented included EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Energy, the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Lindene Patton, Chief Climate Product Officer of Zurich Insurance Group, Ltd. also participated providing a financial risk perspective noting that, “we have an opportunity to dramatically improve the resilience of our critical infrastructure. This can be achieved in a manner that will ultimately save federal, state, and local governments billions of dollars annually. Seizing this opportunity will require investment by local, state and federal governments in enhanced infrastructure resilience measures and elimination of government policies and programs that provide disincentives to improved resilience.”
A report exploring utility resilience and summarizing the discussion will be available this summer. TheSummit took place April 9-10 and was closed to press.