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Climate Change and the Water Industry

Climate change is affecting weather patterns and the world’s ecosystem and, in particular, posing serious challenges to the world’s water supply.  Climate change is having a profound effect on how communities can reliably access clean water, causing poor water quality and scarcity and putting significant stress on the water infrastructure,

For US water providers, addressing the impact of climate change will require: finding solutions to maintain adequate levels of water supply to communities; ensuring high standards of water quality in the face of droughts or flooding; and balancing the need for infrastructure improvements while keeping this vital resource as affordable as possible.

Climate change generally refers to changes in average temperature, precipitation, and weather intensity.  Climate experts agree that the main cause of global warming is the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  While a certain level of greenhouse gases are essential to maintaining the temperature of the earth, higher levels raise the earth’s temperature causing climate change.

Global warming affects water sources in three general ways: changes in annual rainfall; increases in sea levels; and increased runoff which results in decreased raw water quality.  Climate change can alsocan affect the nation’s already compromised water infrastructure. Specifically, buried pipes become more prone to cracking as a result of greater soil movement due to flooding and droughts.  This results in leaking pipes, which causes unnecessary water loss while compromising water quality.

The United States is already seeing changes in the frequency of severe weather conditions, such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes, which have adverse impacts on the nation’s water supply.  The disruption caused by hurricane Sandy on water and power systems along the East Coast only serves to heighten the concerns about climate change. This water-energy nexus means that both the electrical and water infrastructure must be protected to maintain adequate service.

Each weather event raises the question…is it “climate change”, or is it just freak weather?  There is, in fact, a difference between climate variability and weather, and according to NASA, that difference is time. Weather is short-term, and climate “change” is a long-term, typically 30 year, span. There are two approaches that can be used to address climate change:  1. Utilities can adapt and plan for the effects of long-term climate variability, and 2. Utilities can work to mitigate current contributing factors where possible.

Sandy gave us a hard reminder of the immense power of water. There are many uncertainties associated with changing climate patterns and its impact on water, but there is little doubt that climate variability could seriously disrupt water quality and supply unless we respond with adequate planning and risk assessment. The bottom line is that communities, no matter how large or small, need to come together to better plan around both climate variability and weather.

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4 thoughts on “Climate Change and the Water Industry

  1. How about “Climate Blame and your Fear Industry”?
    Deny this:
    Not one single scientific study in 27 years has ever said a climate crisis from Human CO2 is as inevitable and eventual as an asteroid hit and the IPCC has never said it “WILL” happen, only might. Prove me wrong or stop fear mongering! Science saying it only could and might and never WILL be a crisis for 27 years proves it “won’t be” a crisis.
    The ultimate crisis is a climate crisis and for that we need certainty not “maybe” and could be and might be and….. You remaning believers should be glad a crisis wasn’t real not determined to believe in this grief for our children.
    Science gave us pesticides thank you very much.
    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets ruled by corporations and trustworthy politicians.

  2. More trolling by mememine69. I will simply cut&paste a recent rebuttal to his/her silly and oft-repeated comment (see https://www.environmentalleader.com/2013/03/18/manufacturers-freaked-out-about-climate-guidelines/comment-page-1/#comment-961141). Here is the relevant excerpt from my reply to mememine69 on that page:
    “The complaints by mememine69 are groundless – no individual, group, or movement can ever predict the future with 100% accuracy or certainty. It is simply absurd to demand such certainty. However, just look at the consistent percentage of top climate scientists who agree that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is both real and a danger: around 98%. And that supermajority of climate scientists in agreement with AGW has persisted as more and more studies are completed and published, as more and more data roll in, and as the scientific discussion has proceeded. Scientists, and the scientific process, are about as skeptical as can be imagined – but they do pay attention to the data and they do allow that data to influence their thinking and their hypotheses. And that data has continued to convince 98% of them. It’s just too bad that climate change deniers refuse to listen to the same data, and refuse to pay attention to the experts in the field (especially when the deniers themselves so obviously lack any real scientific expertise).”

  3. One would imagine that if someone told mememine69 that if they had a swimming pool without a fence and a young child that it was possible that their child could fall in and drown, they would more than likely put up a fence, regardless of someone was able to definitely tell them such an accident would happen for sure. Its called the precautionary principle you fool and is no different when applied to the climate. Those who deny and wait for certainty only resist because they have a vested interest in resisting or cannot cope with reality.

  4. The issues discussed here resonate with concerns being expressed in the UK. As a mathematician working on weather and climate modelling, one of the key issues is the predictability of extreme weather in the future. My recent book, co-authored with John Norbury (Oxford) and published by Princeton, may be of interest to readers – “Invisible in the Storm: the role of mathematics in understanding weather”

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