Weathering Change

Charles River, Boston, MA | Michael Krigsman

Bringing Federal Policy into the 21st Century

Many federal policies still encourage the same backward-looking water management approaches that didn’t work in the past and are even less suited to the future. Federal funding and policies reward wasteful water use and support destructive, inflexible infrastructure projects, while important programs that would help save water or preserve valuable wetlands and floodplains fall woefully short of what is needed. There is a widespread failure to plan for and address the changing conditions we know are coming. Too many federal policies are moving us in the wrong direction and making communities and wildlife more vulnerable.

The following ten reforms are some of the best ways we can change outdated federal policies and embrace a forward-looking approach to water management. They represent proactive steps Congress and the Executive Branch can take to address climate change.

  1. National Flood Insurance Program: Change flood insurance rates and maps to ensure they reflect risk and discourage construction and reconstruction in vulnerable areas
  2. Farm Policy: Reward farmers for being responsible stewards of land and water resources and encourage better flood management practices on agricultural lands
  3. Bureau of Reclamation: Develop comprehensive water management plans for Reclamation projects to create greater flexibility and improve the health of rivers
  4. Energy Policy: Integrate water management and energy planning and ensure that energy and water are being used as efficiently as possible
  5. Clean Water Act: Restore protections to wetlands and streams and improve implementation and enforcement of protections for all waters
  6. Water Resources Development Policy: Reform the principles that guide construction of federal water infrastructure projects to minimize damages to rivers, wetlands, and floodplains and prioritize more cost-effective, flexible projects
  7. Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Funding: Reform funding criteria to ensure that funded projects embrace green infrastructure and can adapt to changing conditions
  8. National Forest Management: Diversify Forest Service management practices to prioritize effective water management
  9. Transportation Policy: Ensure that funded projects minimize impacts on surrounding water resources and wildlife populations
  10. Wildlife Management: Better coordinate federal actions and invest in climate change planning to help maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations