Climate impacts report underscores need to protect, restore Southeast rivers and embrace water efficiency

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 Southeast communities by protecting and restoring rivers and embracing water efficiency solutions, American Rivers said today.

The report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” shows that increased water shortages will affect the Southeast’s economy and environment. Specifically:

  • Decreased water availability due to increased temperature and longer periods of time between rainfall events, coupled with an increase in societal demand is very likely to affect many sectors of the Southeast’s economy. The magnitude of the projected changes in extreme events like droughts and floods is expected to be greater than changes in averages, and hence detectable sooner.
  • Rising water temperatures will cause a decline in dissolved oxygen in stream, lakes, and shallow aquatic habitats leading to fish kills and loss of aquatic species diversity. Projected losses of trout habitat for some warmer states, such as North Carolina and Virginia, are up to 90 percent.

“Here in the Southeast, nothing is more fundamental to our lives than clean water, and climate change is impacting rivers and clean water first and worst,” said Gerrit Jobsis, Southeast regional director for American Rivers.  “The good news is, by protecting and restoring our rivers and implementing water efficiency measures we can safeguard communities and our clean water supplies. By helping nature, we help ourselves.”

The Southeast regional office of American Rivers is playing a lead role in the region advocating 21st century solutions, including water efficiency, to prepare communities for climate impacts. American Rivers released the report, “Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast” which showed that if urban areas like Atlanta, GA, Raleigh, NC and Columbia, SC implement water efficiency measures, they could save up to a third of its water supply and hundreds of millions of dollars. The report also found that water efficiency is up to 8500 times cheaper than building new water supply dams.

American Rivers is also working to protect and restore rivers across the region, to improve water quality and ensure fish, wildlife and people can continue to benefit from healthy rivers in an era of climate change.

American Rivers urged communities to prepare for a changing climate by adopting the following approaches:

  1. Protect healthy landscapes like forests and small streams that naturally sustain clean water supplies and reduce temperature impacts on habitat.
  2. Restore degraded landscapes like floodplains and wetlands so they can better store flood waters and filter clean water.
  3. Repair natural water systems in urban settings to promote the efficient use of clean water and prevent stormwater and sewage pollution.

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 Jobsis. “It is time to embrace a 21st century approach to water that integrates green solutions, recognizes changing climatic conditions, and helps ensure clean water and healthy rivers for generations to come.”


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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.