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*** DRAFT COPY-AS OF 3/15/99 ***
The workshop began with a series of very brief presentations by representatives of the various geographic areas represented at the meeting. These presentations were designed to highlight the particular concerns of the different regions and to provide a perspective for the ensuing discussions.
Ricardo Alvarez on the Southeast and Islands: The water's edge defines where things happen, like extreme events. Some of the region (i.e., the southeastern states) has abundant water; but some (e.g., the Carribean Islands) has no groundwater. Policy in water management is, therefore, critical because management competes with development. Demographics plays an important role in water management and use in this area because of the high population densities along the coast and because of large seasonal swings in population. Some health hazards are associated with water resources. And recent events have proven that both drought and increased precipitation need to be dealt with.
Nani Bhowmik on the Eastern Midwest: The eastern Midwest includes some of the largest river systems in the nation and is heavily affected by drought and flood. Drought brings on low flow and depletion of groundwater. Flooding produces crop and property damage, erosion, and sedimentation. In addition, agricultural runoff from the region is causing hypoxyation of the Gulf of Mexico. On the bright side, floods increase the fish population. Generally, the region has plenty of water, but the effectiveness of the distribution systems varies, and because of that, some areas will go without water during droughts.
Frank Quinn on the Great Lakes: The Great Lakes, while making up 95% of the fresh surface water in the United States, are a shared resource with Canada. The degradation of the water quantity, quality, associated ecosystems, and coastline is a problem. Water management (the lakes are managed) also has problems. Anticipated problems associated with climate change and variability include increased air temperatures, changes in precipitation, more evaporation of lakes, increased evapotranspiration, decreased tributary flows, decreased net water supplies, and lower lake levels with three times the normal variability of water level in the lakes. What is needed is a serious consideration of sustainability, the development of a robust water-management plan, the addressing of groundwater supplies, and an assessment of water-quality and ecosystem impacts on the 121 watersheds around the Great Lakes.
Kathleen Miller on the Central Great Plains: The main transbasin diversions are the tunnels drilled through the Rockies to bring Colorado River water to the Central Basin. Irrigated agriculture is a main end use and is increasing, although there is some transformation from agriculture to urban development. The biggest issue is the tightly allocated water supplies. An example of this tight allocation is the Arkansas River, which serves multiple uses as it goes through the different states. This tight allocation of the Arkansas' waters has led to a number of lawsuits regarding groundwater as well as surface-water issues.
Dave Penn on Hawaii-Pacific: The Hawaii-Pacific region covers a vast expanse of ocean, but has a small population that is scattered in geographically isolated, culturally and politically diverse, and economically and ecologically vulnerable communities. Water resource systems occur on (1) low-lying atolls whose groundwater bodies are very small and fragile and (2) high islands with larger, more resilient aquifers where runoff from the mountains is also used as a water resource. Extant general circulation models for climate prediction do not yet provide strong results for Hawaii-Pacific region conditions; instead, ENSO characteristics are used as a model for expected climate change. Research and infomation needs include: upgrading and expanding basic data collection efforts, gaining more thorough knowledge of climate-system processes, conducting education and information campaigns, and enlarging industrial sector involvement. There are critical water management issues to be addressed as well, including many affecting our populations of native Hawaiians and other native peoples.
Upton Hatch on the Southeast: The southeast regional workshop identified agriculture, forestry, and ecological systems as the main areas of concern in regard to water. To assess what climate change and variability might do to those resources, institutions and agencies are performing climate-model simulations and biophysical-response models for agriculture, forests, and land use.
Brent Yarnell on the Middle Atlantic States: An upward trend in precipitation and productivity is currently evident for the region. It had some severe drought produced during the past few decades, and winter storms and hurricanes produced flooding. The Middle Atlantic region can therefore be best characterized as an area with great variability and large vulnerabilities. It has a lot of metropolitan areas that are sensitive to climate variation. A large portion of the population gets water from private wells. Those small systems are highly sensitive to climate variability. As a result, emergency water management is a major issue here.
Con Baldwin on the Rocky Mountains/Great Basin: The vulnerability of the region to the effects of climate change and variability was investigated with runs on GCMs. The results of these simulations pointed out a number of important trends resulting from land-use change and changes in demographics. The models also showed correlations between climate changes and historic river flows.
Blair Henry on the Pacific Northwest: As temperatures go up, snowpacks in the mountains go down, and those snowpacks feed most of the area with its water resources, all east of the Cascades. Late fall snow turns into flood-producing rains under a warmer climate, and less water flow results during the summer. The Columbia River already has too many demands on too little water. One of the big issues is how long it takes fish to get downriver with all the reservoirs in place. At the same time, the river flow is going to happen earlier; the life cycles of the fish will not correspond with the earlier runoff produced by warmer climate. In addition to all this, the habitat of the fish is being degraded.
Jurgen Schwandt on the Rio Grande: No place in this region has enough water. All places are experiencing rapid urban and population growth. Conflicts are arising between Indian tribes and the rest of the community. Only on the U.S.-Mexican border has an analysis been performed on climate-change effects. That analysis indicates that the droughts that the region has been experiencing will increase and tropical diseases will increase. With the population doubling every 20 years, aquifers are being depleted rapidly; border river water is being allocated to agriculture. In fact, agriculture is thriving, and no drought-management plan is in place. The answer to supply problems is increased efficiency of agricultural use. With water down to 20% of its historical levels, the biggest threat is to the ecology of the region. But the legal differences are very difficult to overcome.
David Major on the Metro East: The area has many water-supply systems, but they are dominated by New York City. Water supply is a dynamic system linked to many other systems. Climate change could occur on top of these other dynamics. The effects of climate change on the water system are unknown. Rising seal level will invade the Long Island aquifer, producing an increased demand on the New York City system. New institutional forms and changes will be needed as will new infrastructure systems. The quality of effluent waters has improved radically, and these will not be affected by climate change unless large increases occur in upstate precipitation and there is a large sea-level rise.
Jerry Fletcher on the Appalachians: Modeling efforts are trying to see if the large increases in precipitation over the mountainous areas are significant.
Geographic Breakout Sessions
The workshop participants then broke up into smaller groups to discuss and prioritize the concerns of five major regions: the Northeast, Southeast and islands, Central Plains and Midwest, West, and Pacific Northwest. The breakout groups were to consider the stresses that the area was currently undergoing, the information that was needed to assess and cope with climate change and variability in the area, and potential response strategies for the stresses snd problems anticipated. Afterward, the moderators and rapporteurs summarized their group's findings.
Northeast: The issues that people want discussed relative to water in the northeast states are:
Southeast and Islands: The major stress is water availability. Water management and storage techniques cannot keep up with the demands of the increasing population (which strains supplies, degrades water quality, and places great burdens on wastewater-treatment facilities), the vagaries of demographics (temporary populations build up and then go away), and the competitive needs of maintaining aquatic habitats and agriculture (which not only consumes water but also produces contaminated runoff). Secondary stresses include saltwater intrusion, subsidence as water is withdrawn from the subsoil, economic globalization of agriculture (foreign competitors produce demand for increased domestic productivity; climate effects on Mexican agriculture are more influential on Florida agriculture than the Florida climate is), and extreme events (such as hurricanes and droughts). As a result, water resources are so strained that marginal changes could have major effects. To deal with these stresses, we need a more-responsive form of water management that has the flexibility needed to cope with climate change. As the stresses are addressed, we need to monitor the response strategies to see what works and what does not, we need to review policies for currency, and we need to spend more money on such things as rainfall collectors and to check to see how well that money is spent. The information needed to accomplish these tasks includes flood maps (from FEMA), flow plans, weather forecasting, and fuller assessments of current stresses (land use, demographics, and population) that reveal how those stresses change with time.
Central Plains and Midwest: The current stresses observed in the Central Plains and Midwest are evaporative losses of water resources, land-use patterns in the Mississippi basin, overdrafting of the Ogallala Aquifer, interstate policy conflicts, water quality, and the increasing desire to meet environmental-quality standards. To address these concerns, we need better hydrologic models, river-flow sensors, flood and drought statistics, a better understanding of human responses to environmental and social changes, a baseline understanding of how the world would change without climate change, data on land-use change, a survey of water scarcity in the Midwest states, an assessment of how groundwater changes under stress, and better confidence in short-term climate predictions. Potential response strategies for addressing these stresses include recharge technologies, water banking, conjunctive water use, greater consolidation of water-supply systems, and land management that will increase the water-holding capacity of the soil and subsoil. Information systems that would help achieve these objectives include HUMUS (Hydrologic Unit Model for the United States), downscaled and disaggregated water-use data, and extant but unused satellite data.West: Increasing population is decreasing the water supply and quality at the same time that international problems are putting demands on available supplies. The information needed to address these concerns includes knowledge of the likely outcomes of climate change in terms of flood, drought, and snowpack; improved collection of streamflow and water-quality data; information on convective storms, glacial advance and retreat, and models' limitations. Responses that might alleviate the stresses include conservation, reuse, recharge, the integration of land-use planning with water-supply planning, regulatory reform, and a negotiated settlement of Indian water rights. Current research that will shed some light on these problems includes the intercomparisons of GCMs (such as AMIP), studies of hydrologic sensitivity, research on the effects of sea-level rise on the lower Sacramento and San Joaquin basins, snowpack-runoff studies, and the evaluation of socioeconomic studies on climate-change effects.
Pacific Northwest: The water-use issues vary widely throughout the region, depending on geography and climate. East of the Cascades, irrigation is a major use, and the availability of water for that purpose is very important, and hydropower is considered a competing use. Dryland agriculturists, however, are more interested in temperature changes and their effects. West of the Cascades, a 50% increase in population is expected in the coming decades. As a result, the low storage capacity will need to be increased. That increased capture of runoff will be important because the groundwater is already being drawn down and polluted. In Alaska, the major concern is loss of the permafrost south of the Yukon River, resulting not only in the loss of natural resources but also in damage to the area's infrastructure (buildings, roads, bridges, power lines, etc.). Some socioeconomic issues are surfacing in response to these stresses, such as the pitting the survival of endangered species against economic development and other transforming land uses. Models are playing a major role in defining the problems and suggesting solutions to them. But concerns exist about the different results obtained from different models. We need to determine the sensitivities of these models to prescribed changes; this is especially true for hydrologic models. The models also need to be downscaled to provide information on a regional basis. To improve the resolution and reliability of these models, more data sets need to be compiled, different types of models need to be developed (reservoir models, for example, need to reflect all of the influences that act on reservoirs), and regulators need to be involved early in the process of modeling systems and changes and prescribing reactions.
Topical Breakout Sessions
Later, the workshop participants broke up into small groups to discuss and prioritize the concerns related to five major water-related topics: extreme events, human health, water management, water use: quality and availability, and aquatic ecosystems. The breakout groups were to consider the vulnerabilities observed, the concerns that needed to be dealt with, coping strategies that might be applied to ameliorate the concerns, and the knowledge gaps that have been identified as hindering the implementation of these strategies. Afterward, the moderators and rapporteurs summarized their group's findings. Extreme Events: We need to understand trends in streamflow, humidity, and water quality and variability over time. We also need additional information about trends in floods and droughts, especially what part human intervention (e.g., development) has played in influencing those trends. A particularly interesting question is whether the hydrologic system has intensified. Little work has been done on a number of important topics, such as orographic precipitation and urban effects on extreme events. On the other hand, masses of historical weather data are available awaiting analysis for long- and short-term variability. Islands and coastlines need to be studied not only because of their vulnerability but also because they are too small to be resolved by GCMs.
Several response strategies should be adopted. In the short term, the deletion of stream gages needs to be reversed. In fact, we need improved monitoring networks and forecasting; these improvements should be accompanied by education about the application of forecasts. Similarly, the results of the current assessments should be made available to the public, policymakers, and industry. The public should be educated about the connections between climate change and extreme events. And policies and laws should be reevaluated after extreme events to see how changes could minimize effects and prevent losses. An assessment of the availability of insurance coverages is also needed. Some of these strategies could be initiated at the upcoming AWRA meeting. A special task that should be undertaken is a literature review of past events and a description of trends. Likewise, the various GCMs should be described along with evaluations of their applicability.
A general recommendation put forward is that all segments of the National Assessment must share data and communicate their findings with the public.
Human Health: Even though the United States has good water-treatment and other sanitary facilities, it still has sporadic outbreaks of waterborne diseases. It is instructive to look at where the vulnerabilities are: Coastal areas and agriculturally intensive watersheds are especially vulnerable. Small systems are also vulnerable because of limited monitoring and prescriptive management; moreover, 20% of the U.S. population gets its water from private wells. Much data has been collected but needs to be used more widely, such as the American Water Works Association demographic trends in water demand, the USGS water-use data, the USGS streamflows and watershed maps, USDA agricultural data, and NOAA marine data.
The water and health concerns specifically related to climate change are variability (floods and droughts produce microbes and toxins), timing (e.g., the early melting of snowpack can lead to flooding, limiting later availability), and distribution. A major need for addressing these concerns is the development of more and better hydrologic models.
The best solution for coping with these problems is water treatment; the barrier here is money. Also effective would be watershed protection, effective transport (here state water rights are barriers), and upgraded building codes and zoning to protect against floods and mudslides. Knowledge gaps that need to be filled in to bring about these solutions include the lack of long-term data and the barrier of data confidentiality.
Water Management: The deficiencies in the current water-management system include the lack of a basin-wide approach being used uniformly across the landscape, available information and technology not being used, and the lack of flood- and drought-management plans in most regions. The consensus of the breakout group was that, if you have adequate institutions to deal with extreme events, you will probably be able to handle climate change.
Several institutional reforms need to be made. The size of a water-management organization should be based on the size of the watershed. The need for cooperative agreements among parties must be reflected in state laws, federal compacts, and international agreements. Information must be synthesized for the end user. Currently, socioeconomic costs are not integrated into management; in fact, we do not even know what all the tradeoffs would be, and institutions do not exist to incorporate this information into decisions.
Water management needs a summarization of what works and does not work. Also, current flood responses are fragmented; the players need to be brought together.
Water Use: Quality and Availability: Impact assessment is the measurement of the deviation from some baseline. Water availability can be assessed from a demand-side or a supply-side perspective. The demand-side standard could be a status-quo response or a changing-society viewpoint. In the former, per capita water use would not increase in the future, and population projections would determine water needs. In the latter, new technologies, policies, and laws would likely come into play to drive down the per capita demand to an equilibrium level. With a supply-side approach, output from GCMs and/or HUMUS would be used to prescribe what the available water will be. Also. the Environmental Protection Agency is developing vulnerability indexes. Such indexes could be developed on the community, watershed, county, or larger basis. With these tools, the needs and shortfalls of the future water supply can be calculated.
Aquatic Ecosystems: The absence of ecosystem interest is problematic and indicative of the fact that we do not have a balanced mix of representation yet. The following are the main points that were emphasized:
Gaps, Collaborations, and Links
After the breakout-session reports, a roundtable discussion was held to identify gaps, collaborations, and links. This session was an opportunity for participants to bring forward ideas for further action, to flag subjects that need investigation, and to point out research that has been done and that could contribute to the understanding of problems brought forth during the workshop. The discussions were generally grouped around relevant topics or leading questions. The following observations, comments, questions, and suggestions were raised.