Friday, March 28, 2008

EPA's Draft Water Program Strategy: Response To Climate Change

Mar 28: U.S. EPA is seeking public comment on a draft strategy that describes the potential effects of climate change on clean water, drinking water, and ocean protection programs and outlines EPA actions to respond to these effects. The National Water Program Strategy: Response to Climate Change focuses on actions designed to help managers adapt their water programs in response to a changing climate. Other elements of the draft strategy include steps needed to strengthen links between climate research and water programs, and to improve education for water program professionals on potential climate change impacts. The strategy also identifies contributions that water programs can make to mitigate greenhouse gases. Some of the potential impacts of climate change on water resources reviewed in the strategy include increases in certain water pollution problems, changes in availability of drinking water supplies, and collective impacts on coastal areas. The public comment period is open for 60 days.

According to the report, "Today, the scientific consensus on climate change is changing our assumptions about water resources. Over the coming years, we in the United States can expect: • shorelines to move as a result of sea level rise; • changes in ocean chemistry to alter aquatic habitat and fisheries; • warming water temperatures to change contaminant concentrations in water and alter aquatic system uses; • new patterns of rainfall and snowfall to alter water supply for drinking and other uses and lead to changes in pollution levels in aquatic systems; and • more intense storms to threaten water infrastructure and increase polluted storm water runoff.

"There remains significant uncertainty about the exact scope and timing of climate change–related impacts on water resources, but the National Water Program and its partners need to assess emerging climate change information, evaluate potential impacts of climate change on water programs, and identify needed responses."

EPA indicates that the ideas and response actions outlined in the report are the product of a cooperative effort among EPA water program managers in national and Regional offices. The EPA Offices of Air and Radiation and Research and Development provided valuable support for this work. And, a wide range of stakeholders participated in initial “listening session” meetings.

Initially, the report asks the question: Why is the Earth Warming? And responds, "The Earth absorbs energy from the Sun and radiates energy back into space. Much of the energy going back to space, however, is absorbed by 'greenhouse gases' in the atmosphere. Because the atmosphere then radiates much of this energy back to the Earth’s surface, the planet is warmer than it would be if the atmosphere did not contain these gases. As levels of greenhouse gases increase, partly as a result of human activity, the Earth will continue to warm."

Access a brief announcement from EPA (
click here). Access an overview, background and commenting instructions (click here). Access the 115-page Strategy (click here). [*Climate, *Water]