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Can You Adapt? - Fall 2010 Issue

(by James Tierney, Assistant Commissioner for Water Resources)

An old joke says: "Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it." It's a joke no more. We have to do something.

The weather is changing - or more specifically, the climate is being disrupted by greenhouse gas emissions that will continue to affect weather. When it comes to water, think longer droughts mixed with more severe deluges. This has all sorts of implications for drinking water, manufacturing, flooding, habitat, fire safety, irrigation, sanitation, municipal infrastructure, industry, erosion and water quality. Here are some basics on adaptation.

NYSDEC supports Water Conservation Legislation S.8280 (Thompson)/A.11436-A (Sweeney):

Environmental and economic sense is embodied in Governor David Paterson's proposed legislation to get a handle on large water withdrawals of 100,000 gallons per day through a permit program. Without an update of the early 1900s law, New York's abundant water resources can and will be wasted. Google the term "water footprint" to get a sense of the economic case for conserving water. The state Senate has approved this legislation; it is hoped the Assembly will act.

Green Infrastructure:

The green infrastructure approach to stormwater and polluted runoff is: "slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in." An amazing and growing number of methods now exist to hold and infiltrate water on the landscape - often in ways that beautify streets. Soils hold, clean and slowly release water very effectively. Funding programs, such as the Green Innovation component of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and grants from the Water Quality Improvement Program, are helping to get implementation underway. Holding water on, and within, the landscape will be central to effective climate change adaptation.

Build or Re-Build Away from the Water:

It seems so simple. Protect life and property by keeping our home and business structures out of flood zones and storm inundation zones. Good information for community planning and action is available through modernized FEMA flood maps. Use flood maps, as well as well developed engineering techniques, to improve the protection afforded your community, your home and your children. Riparian buffers are also one of the best measures you can take to protect local ecology.

Re-Build it with Resiliency:

Those who manage clean water infrastructure know that it wears out and needs to be re-built, over time. If a critical element of your equipment is at risk right now, take action. For the most part, however, measures to increase the resiliency of your infrastructure can be designed and implemented over the course of the next 20 to 50 years.

Such positive actions - wise under any circumstance - are critical in the face of climate change.

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