Extreme Weather Events Will Increasingly Affect US Water Supply

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2008  3:04 PM

CONTACT: Pacific Institute
Nancy Ross, Pacific Institute,
nross@pacinst.org · 510.251.1600 x106

Extreme Weather Events Will Increasingly Affect US Water Supply
With global warming we are ‘loading the dice,’ Cooley testifies before Congress

WASHINGTON – July 10 – “With global warming, there is an increased risk of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves,” according to the Congressional testimony of Heather Cooley, senior research associate of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California. Cooley’s testimony was provided to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming for the hearing on Climate Change and Extreme Events on Thursday, July 10.

“Floods and droughts are a natural part of the climate system, but we are seeing a growing body of scientific analysis indicating it is likely that climate change will vastly increase stresses on our water systems,” Cooley testified. “We are essentially ‘loading the dice’ and increasing the probability that these types of events will increase in frequency and intensity.”

Cooley noted that the scientific community has been warning about extreme events associated with climate change for many years. The 2000 National Water Assessment prepared for Congress and the President, for example, noted that while there are many factors of concern that will be affected by the rising of average temperatures and sea level associated with global warming, “some of the most important impacts will result, not from changes in averages, but from changes in local extremes.” And the latest science supports the concerns that extreme events will worsen as climate change continues.

Cooley made several recommendations for mitigating the impact of extremes on communities and water supplies, citing the need for water conservation, improved weather-monitoring efforts, and better planning and preparedness for floods and droughts. In addition to her remarks, she presented written testimony to the Select Committee addressing the need for adaptation to be a central element of all climate-change policy.

Such adaptation measures include:

-Water managers must re-evaluate engineering designs, operating rules, contingency plans, and water-allocation policies, including taking into account their energy and greenhouse-gas implications.

-New water infrastructure must be designed and built incorporating expected climate change over the expected life of the project.

-Water and energy issues must be better integrated, and water agencies should partner with other agencies to seek combined solutions to water, energy, and greenhouse-gas problems.

“Climate change will have a significant impact on freshwater resources, affecting availability, timing, reliability, and quality,” Cooley testified, “and water conservation and efficiency are particularly attractive adaptation options.”

The Pacific Institute’s 2003 study, “Waste Not, Want Not,” provides a comprehensive statewide analysis of the conservation potential in California’s urban sector. This study finds that existing, cost-effective technologies and policies can reduce current urban demand by more than 30%, with more substantial water savings still possible. A more recent study, “California 2030: An Efficient Future,” concludes that the state as a whole could reduce water use in urban and agricultural sectors by 20% overall with existing technologies, even with a growing population and economy.

To read Cooley’s full testimony, click here.

Heather Cooley is a Senior Research Associate with the Pacific Institute’s Water and Sustainability Program. Her areas of expertise include water privatization, California water issues, environmental justice, and climate change. She has testified before the House Subcommittee on Water and Power and the California Assembly Select Committee on Growth and Infrastructure. Among her publications, she authored the chapter on floods and droughts in the seminal text “The World’s Water 2006-2007: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources” edited by Peter Gleick, and co-authored the reports “California 2030: An Efficient Future” and “Desalination, With a Grain of Salt – A California Perspective.” Cooley holds a B.S. in Molecular Environmental Biology with an emphasis in Ecology and an M.S. in Energy and Resources from the University of California at Berkeley.

Based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute is a nonpartisan research institute that works to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Through interdisciplinary research and partnering with stakeholders, the Institute produces solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity—in California, nationally, and internationally. www.pacinst.org

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