Washington, DC – A national scientific report released by the White House on how climate change will impact water resources and other aspects of society underscores the need to prepare communities by protecting and restoring rivers and clean water, American Rivers said today.
American Rivers called on Congress to strengthen and pass climate change legislation that significantly reduces carbon emissions and dedicates funding to a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Fund to protect and restore healthy rivers and other natural resources that provide clean drinking water, flood protection, and boost communities’ resilience to the impacts of climate change.
The report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” highlights that the U.S. will experience more wet-dry extremes, with heavier downpours and longer periods of drought. Communities will face increased risks from floods, water shortages for drinking, agriculture, energy and municipal uses, and increased water pollution. Specifically:
- Heavy downpours that are now 1-in-20-year occurrences are projected to occur about every 4 to 15 years and be between 10 and 25 percent heavier by the end of this century.
- Northern states east of the Mississippi River will experience between a 5 and 20 percent increase in runoff while southwestern areas experience between a 10 and 40 percent decrease by mid-century, based on a medium-high scenario of future carbon emissions.
- Spring snowmelts are projected to arrive more than 20 and in some cases 60 days earlier than usual in many parts of the West and 14 days earlier in Northeast. Early snowmelt can lead to drought in subsequent months.
“Nothing is more fundamental to our lives than clean water, and climate change is impacting rivers and clean water first and worst. If the floods and water shortages we’ve seen across the country over the past couple years weren’t enough of a wake up call, this report should spur decision-makers to take action,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “The good news is, by protecting and restoring our rivers we can safeguard communities from damaging floods, water shortages, and waterborne diseases. By helping nature, we help ourselves.”
American Rivers is advocating 21st century green infrastructure solutions to prepare communities for climate impacts. Green infrastructure approaches are reliable, flexible and cost-effective. They promote clean water, public health and safety, and deliver other benefits for people and wildlife.
Green infrastructure means restoring floodplains to protect communities instead of building taller levees; planting trees and restoring wetlands to naturally filter water, rather than building a costly new water treatment plant; and, choosing water efficiency and using captured rainwater instead of building a new water supply dam.
American Rivers urged communities to prepare for a changing climate by adopting the following green infrastructure approaches:
- Protect healthy landscapes like forests and small streams that naturally sustain clean water supplies.
- Restore degraded landscapes like floodplains and wetlands so they can better store flood waters and filter clean water.
- Repair natural water systems in urban settings to capture and use water more wisely, and prevent stormwater and sewage pollution.
Many forward-looking cities are already embracing green infrastructure, including New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Toledo, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia.
“We are at a transformational moment. We have seen that the same old 19th and 20th century approaches to water management simply aren’t fit for the challenges of this century,” said Wodder. “It is time to embrace a 21st century approach to water that integrates green solutions, recognizes changing climatic conditions, and helps ensure community safety and security.”
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.