Report: Impacts of Climate Change on Water Supplies and Waterways

July 27, 2011
A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council prepares cities for rain, flooding, drought and drinking water impacts

As the nation grapples with a record year for storms, drought and weather-related devastation, a new report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council reveals climate change is leaving American cities open to a range of water-related vulnerabilities regardless of region or size. The report looks at how communities facing these new extremes are trying to protect their water supplies and waterways.

The report, “Thirsty for Answers: Preparing for the Water-related Impacts of Climate Change in American Cities,” found that climate change will impact water supplies and waterways in communities across the country, with geography often determining the specific effects.

For the first time, this peer-reviewed report has compiled the results of more than 75 scientific studies, data generated by government agencies and information gathered by other nonprofit organizations to analyze how the impacts of climate change on water supplies and waterways could affect 12 target cities: Boston; Chicago; Homer, Ala.; Los Angeles; Miami; New Orleans; New York; Norfolk, Va.; Phoenix; San Francisco; Seattle and St. Louis.

The report provides a snapshot of projected climate change impacts in regions across the country. Rising sea levels threaten vital infrastructure and saltwater intrusion to freshwater supplies in cities on the East, West and Gulf Coasts. Severe storms in the Midwest and East Coast are likely to become more intense and more frequent, causing floods and erosion, and threatening drinking water quality.

In the West, a combination of increased temperatures, decreased precipitation and less snow pack contributes to a future shortage of water supply for people and aquatic life. More specifically scientific studies reveal a range of possible impacts under various carbon emission scenarios: rising seas, increased storms and flooding, a drier West and decreased water quality.

The report’s focus cities were chosen for their population concentrations and geographic diversity. Additionally, the scientific community has studied local and regional impacts of climate change in many of these communities, which provided more data from which to draw conclusions.

Source: The Natural Resources Defense Council

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