Climate impacts report underscores need to protect, restore rivers and water resources in Great Lakes/Midwest region

June 16th, 2009

Amy Kober, 206-898-3864 (cell)

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 Great Lakes and Midwest communities by protecting and restoring rivers and clean water, American Rivers said today.

The report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” highlights that the Great Lakes and Midwest region will experience heavier downpours and increased flooding. Specifically:

  • Precipitation is projected to increase in winter and spring, and to become more intense throughout the year. This pattern is expected to lead to more frequent flooding, increasing infrastructure damage, and impacts on human health.
  • The Midwest has experienced two record-breaking floods in the past 15 years. Heavy downpours are now twice as frequent as they were a century ago and are projected to increase further as the world continues to warm.
  • Heavy downpours can overload drainage systems and water treatment facilities, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases.

“Nothing is more fundamental to our lives than clean water, and climate change is impacting rivers and clean water first and worst,” 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.”

From its Washington, DC and Toledo, Ohio offices, American Rivers is playing a lead role in the Great Lakes and Midwest region, advocating 21st century green infrastructure solutions to prepare communities for climate impacts. American Rivers has been instrumental in implementing rain gardens and other local projects across the region to control stormwater runoff, and is working with communities to adopt sustainable development guidelines that protect clean water and reduce runoff.

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:

  1. Protect healthy landscapes like forests and small streams that naturally sustain clean water supplies.
  2. 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.

American Rivers also 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.

“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.”


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.