Diving in the Deep End: Help Water Agencies Address Climate Change

Patricia Mulroy
Patricia Mulroy Former Brookings Expert

February 7, 2008

Climate change has the unprecedented potential to profoundly affect the world’s water supplies. Shrinking reservoirs and more-frequent floods, among other threats, have tremendous ramifications for Americans living in dry areas or near the coast. Overcoming the challenges ahead will require the federal government to rethink how it views water and utility management.


Specifically, the new President can work with regional, state, and local authorities to adopt a more flexible water strategy, drawing from components that:

  • combine research efforts, now diffused through multiple federal agencies, into a single, Los Alamos-type center
  • devise incentives for regionalization, as regional approaches are the most feasible way to meet the demands of climate change
  • establish a mechanism to provide utilities and other stakeholders access to capital, with payments reasonably spread over time
  • work cooperatively with water agencies to improve data collection, analysis, and planning
  • promote and support collaborations among water agencies, as no agency can meet the full array of climate change-induced water problems on its own

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