A new study says climate change will take a “serious toll” on American water supplies in the coming decades, with the group behind the report calling on Congress to pass “meaningful legislation” to reduce global warming pollution.
The report, prepared by consulting firm Tetra Tech for Washington, DC-based global environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), was based on analysis of publicly available water use data and climate models. It found that 14 states face an extreme or high risk to water sustainability, or are likely to see limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply by 2050.
High risk regions include parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The Great Plains and Southwest US were singled out as being at extreme risk.
Increased water risk is based on projected changes in precipitation and increased water demand, said Sujoy Roy, Tetra Tech principal engineer and lead report author.
Dan Lashof, director of NRDC’s Climate Center, said the study’s results highlighted the need for action on climate change.
“Water shortages can strangle economic development and agricultural production and affected communities. As a result, cities and states will bear real and significant costs if Congress fails to take the steps necessary to slow down and reverse the warming trend,” he said.
He added that water management and climate change adaptation plans are “essential” to reduce the impacts of environmental risk, adding, “the only way to truly manage the risks exposed by this report is for Congress to pass meaningful legislation that cuts global warming pollution and allows the US to exercise global leadership on the issue.”
A clean energy and climate bill is expected to be introduced to the Senate floor next week. However, the bill has already sparked intense disagreements between energy groups, environmental groups and politicians.
Michael LoCascio, a New York-based senior analyst with advisory group Lux Research, said while water stress was a real issue, the extent to which climate change was responsible was “speculative at best”. He noted the areas identified as most at risk – chiefly the Midwest and desert states – were already under water stress and would face tougher conditions as water demand rises.
LoCascio said technologies such as desalination and water recycling would assist in meeting the challenges posed by water risk.
By. Charlotte Dudley
Source: Environmental Finance