A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy

By Juliet Christian-Smith; Peter H. Gleick et al. | Go to book overview

10
WATER AND CLIMATE

Heather Cooley


Introduction

In addition to a wide range of old, unresolved water challenges facing the nation and federal water policy makers, several new threats are emerging, especially the growing consequences for water resources and developed water systems from a rapidly changing climate. Rising greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities are causing large-scale changes to the Earth’s climate. Because of a time lag between greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts, we know that these changes will continue even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases today. Given our economic dependence on fossil fuels and the difficult political issues associated with emissions-reduction strategies, it now appears inevitable that significant climatic changes will continue to intensify over the next several decades.

Because the water cycle and the climate cycle are inextricably linked, these changes will have major implications for our nation’s water resources. The movement of water is the primary process by which energy is redistributed around the planet. As temperatures rise, the flows of water in the hydrologic cycle will accelerate. In short, climate change will intensify the water cycle, altering water availability, timing, quality, and demand. Indeed, all of the major international and national assessments of climate changes have concluded that freshwater systems are among the most vulnerable sectors of society (Compagnucci et al. 2001; SEG 2007; Kundzewicz et al. 2007; Bates et al. 2008). An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) technical report on freshwater resources released in 2008 concludes with a very high confidence that

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A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • List of Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction- the Soft Path for Water xv
  • 1 - The Water of the United States 3
  • 2 - Legal and Institutional Framework of Water Management 23
  • 3 - Water and Environmental Justice 52
  • 4 - Tribes and Water 90
  • 5 - Water Quality 109
  • 6 - Protecting Freshwater Ecosystems 142
  • 7 - Municipal Water Use 167
  • 8 - Water and Agriculture 195
  • 9 - Water and Energy 221
  • 10 - Water and Climate 244
  • 11 - United States International Water Policy 263
  • 12 - Conclusions and Recommendations 288
  • Appendix - Key Pieces of Federal Legislation 305
  • Notes 313
  • About the Authors 317
  • Index 319
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