Getting Climate Smart!


US Drought Monitor map illustrates the expansive drought conditions | © David Miskus, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC

US Drought Monitor map illustrates the expansive drought conditions | © David Miskus, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC

Last year, drought wreaked havoc across more than 65% of the country. Wildfires blazed through 9.2 million acres of the west, crops suffered across the Midwest and 2012 topped out as the hottest year on record. While the fall and winter of 2012 provided the country with much needed wet weather, Mother Nature didn’t produce quite enough to break the drought.

Communities within the basin of our #1 Most Endangered River, the Colorado River, specifically the Front Range communities, declared a Stage 2 drought at the end of March. This has been cited as the worst drought conditions since 2002. It is likely the basin will be facing an even more serious drought this summer. The question remains – how will we manage this?

Denver Water issued mandatory watering restrictions beginning on April 1st, as it seems unlikely that the additional 7 feet of snow needed this year for their water resources to reach normal levels will occur. However, in the long term, when population increases and water supply continues to face an uncertain future with climate change impacts, restricting demand alone just won’t cut it. Better management of water supplies from snowpack to estuary, and all the cities, farm fields, and infrastructure in between, is essential.

Cities and states across the west should begin implementing water efficiency and conservation strategies at all levels – from the household, to the municipality to individual utilities to the state. Conservation and efficiency are cost effective solutions that reduce the demand and the strain we put on our water resources.

Today, American Rivers, in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council released Getting Climate Smart, a guide outlining a six-step process for state governments, water managers, and other stakeholders to develop and implement climate preparedness plans focused on water resources. It includes case studies of how U.S. cities and states have developed plans and taken action to prepare for climate impacts.

Additionally, the report contains a Strategy Toolbox outlining more than 600 strategies to deal with the climate risks associated with seven sectors dependent on water resources: agriculture, infrastructure, fisheries, oceans and coastal resources, public health and safety, tourism and recreation, and water management. While all of these strategies are critical for resilience, the Top 10 No-Regret Strategies (Listed below) are where states and cities should focus first as they prepare for the impacts of climate change.

States and cities can get started quickly by following the Top 10 No-Regret Strategies

States and cities can get started quickly by following the Top 10 No-Regret Strategies

Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting the seven sectors related to water resources that are at risk from climate change and what communities are doing around the country to help prepare and adapt to these changes.

Join us on May 14th at 3 pm ET/12 pm PT for a webinar outlining the specifics of the report, and hear first-hand how the states of California and Massachusetts assembled their preparedness plans and are moving to meet the challenge of a changing climate.