An alliance of eight major water utilities that provide drinking water to 36 million people is calling on the US Climate Change Science Program and the science community to aid in assessing and managing risks to water infrastructure and supply from impacts of warming, diminishing snowpack, bigger storms, drought, rising sea level, and potential abrupt climate change. Climate Science Watch has called attention to water issues as a high near-term priority in linking the federal climate research program to decisionmaking intelligence and preparedness needs.

See our earlier posts:
February 26—Review of the Summary of Revised Research Plan for the US Climate Change Science Program
February 6—For a National Climate Change Preparedness Initiative
February 5—A strategy session on the future of the US Global Change Research Program

Reuters reported on February 26:

Top water utilities to study climate change

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Eight of the top U.S. water utilities are joining forces to study how rising sea levels, droughts and other effects of global warming are taking a toll on supplies of drinking water, they said on Tuesday.

The coalition, known as the Water Utility Climate Alliance, said water agencies need access to the best possible climate change research as they prepare to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure over the next 15 years.

“Our systems are facing risk due to diminishing snowpack, bigger storms, more frequent drought and rising sea levels,” said Susan Leal, general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, a member of the alliance. “We need to be organized to respond to these risks—that’s why we’ve formed this alliance.”

Other members of the coalition include Denver Water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Portland Water Bureau, the San Diego County Water Authority, the Seattle Public Utilities and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Altogether, the WUCA members supply drinking water for more than 36 million people, the alliance said.

Last month, scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said a water supply crisis was looming in the western United States thanks to human-caused climate change that has already altered the region’s river flows, snow packs and air temperatures.

Changes over the past half century have meant less snow pack and more rain in the mountains, rivers with greatly reduced flows by summer and overall drier summers in the region, they noted.

In its first official act, the WUCA said it is urging the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and researchers in the climate change field to improve and refine climate models to apply them at the regional or local level and to ensure that water providers have access to consistent climate data.

The coalition also called on scientists to coordinate international research efforts and to develop tools for policy-making and planning for abrupt climate changes.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Andre Grenon)

© Reuters 2008

[emphasis added]

The Associated Press reported on February 26 (exceprt):

Big U.S. water agencies form group to tackle climate change

…The group has been in the works since 2007, after San Francisco hosted a water utility climate change summit that drew more than 200 executives and government officials. In September, the eight agencies gathered to further discuss the impacts of climate change and began studying existing research.

“The whole goal was to wrap our arms around the potential impacts of climate change on water infrastructure and water supplies,” said Bronson Mack, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Over a series of conference calls, Mack said the newly formed group has developed a list of goals that include expanding climate change research, collaborating on adaptation tools and identifying greenhouse gas emissions from individual operations.

[emphasis added]