Water availability impacts almost all aspects of society and the economy. Climate change - higher temperatures and more extreme weather events - is and will continue to shift the availability and distribution of water. Some regions will experience water shortages while other areas will be threatened by increased runoff, flooding or sea level rise.
An expert group of panelists - Carolyn Olson, Senior Scientist at the USDA-OCE-Climate Change Program Office, Russ Behnam, Senior Counsel at the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Elias B. Hinckley, Partner at Sullivan & Worcester LLP and Matt McGovern, Senior Advisor at Department of Energy - actively engaged in a discussion, moderated by Bill Snape, environmental professor at American University Washington College of Law, on how changes in water availability, provoked and exacerbated by climate change, will affect agriculture and energy generation and distribution. Speakers pointed out that water has a direct influence on what they can and cannot do. Water is central to agricultural which is intrinsically linked to food security, poverty, and development. Coal, nuclear, gas, and hydro all require water, whether it be to create the mixture that is used to release natural gas from shale rocks or to generate electricity at thermoelectric or nuclear power plants. Therefore, effective and responsive water management will be essential to ensuring food and energy security.
Speakers highlighted the need for more information and a greater understanding of these interdependencies in order to inform more long-term and responsive policymaking. One speaker highlighted the need for more coalition building and the bringing together of groups that normally would not collaborate. While the types of effects climate change will have are known, the timeframe, the magnitude and prevalence of those effects, and the cascading effects are only partially understood. How we manage those uncertainties when it comes to long-term asset planning and management is one of our most fundamental challenges and biggest question we face.