Category Archives: Districts

Climate change at the district level.

I know, and I’m very sorry.  You come here for obscure government documents about climate change.  Well, lets get this train back on track.  But not, you know, with an actual government document.


The American Water Works Association put out an article titled How Should Water Utilities Prepare for CLIMATE CHANGE?.  They really did shout the last part.  It was written based on experiences at East Bay MUD, and it is a nice piece. 


To my eye, it starts off a little slow.  I’ve heard the recitation of predicted effects in the west enough that I get tired of the intro section.  But it goes over the change in snowpack and how that makes it harder to hold water.   It says that sea level rise threatens infrastructure near the coast.  It mentions water quality, which is too often overlooked in climate change conversations.  Rougher storms will wash down more sediment, causing more turbidity, making it harder to treat raw water.  Heat will increase algal growth in local reservoirs.


The nice part of this piece is that East Bay MUD has done a full scale vulnerability analysis on their own small kingdom.  Good.  They know better than anyone what their system is like, and it sets a great example of districts looking in detail at what is coming their way.  In EBMUD’s case, they think their storage is sufficient, but are worried about floods.  See?  That is great information to have.  To them, this calls attention to a need for better storm forecasting.  They even have numbers:

For example, for each day of lead time, 10,000 ac-ft of additional flood-control space can be gained.


The article is a good summary of an engineering look at the situation.  I hope other districts do that.  If I were making recommendations to districts, though, I’d be advising them to check their legal regime just as thoroughly.  We know that climate change is going to amplify the variance in hydrology, and that poses new risk.  I’m not sure that it is good public policy on the whole, but if I were a district, I’d want to be offloading risk as fast as I could.  They should check their bylaws and state and local codes.  What are they responsible for maintaining and protecting and delivering?  Can they afford it under bigger extremes?  Will they be the ones to pay if they don’t?  Who is responsible for failures?  Is that undefined?  If I were a canny district lawyer, I’d be foisting that on the state or on individuals now, before it becomes a more visible issue.


Somewhat relatedly:

I want to go to this conference the way I want to breathe air.  It looks SO GOOD.  Irrigation District Sustainability: Strategies to Meet the Challenges.  They’re talking about a lot of good stuff, technical ways to increase capacity and flexibility.  I can’t help but notice, though, that the words “climate change” do not appear anywhere in the conference program.



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