Last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy delivered an address at The National Press Club to provide an update on the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan. McCarthy’s remarks demonstrated that NACWA’s message is being heard – climate change is fundamentally about water. She noted that:
“Climate Change is really about water – it's about clean, reliable sources of drinking water, it's about aging water and wastewater treatment facilities that end up over-stressed and flooded during all these extreme weather events. It's about mudslides, it's about storm surges from pounding rains, and it's about sewers that both back up and overflow. It's about inadequate stormwater systems that let pollution attack sensitive ecosystems like our wetlands and our estuaries that threaten our fish and our wildlife. It's about all these impacts adding up spoiling the beauty and vitality of some of this country's most iconic waterbodies that threaten the comfort, our safety and the livability of our communities.”
Wastewater utilities play a critical role in helping the nation adapt to climate change. As more and more climate-related extreme weather events occur, the nation’s clean water agencies are becoming key first responders protecting public health and water quality, and providing uninterrupted service to communities across the country. Furthermore, if businesses don’t have access to clean and safe water, they cannot provide their goods and services, costing communities and the Nation enormous amounts of lost revenue.
Ensuring the resiliency of these wastewater utilities does not come without a large price-tag however – NACWA's 2009 report with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) estimated that the costs for building resiliency at water and wastewater utilities could reach almost a trillion dollars by mid-century. NACWA also addressed resiliency in written testimony submitted last week for a hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power on the Administration’s climate change policies and activities. In its testimony, NACWA emphasized the need to focus attention on the enormous costs associated with ensuring a resilient water sector, and urged the federal government to remain a reliable partner in helping meet the nation’s resiliency needs.
Administrator McCarthy said “climate change is really about water” and while we couldn't agree more, we recognize this reality demands serious attention and action. Going forward, NACWA is committed to working with the Administration and Congress to ensure that federal policy addressing climate change accounts for its impacts on our water and wastewater infrastructure and that there is strong support for efforts to ensure our utilities are resilient. This will be critical to ensuring another four decades of water quality progress similar to what we have enjoyed since passage of the Clean Water Act four decades ago.