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Explore viable solutions for water security


Explore viable solutions for water security

by Emily Harnon
|September 7, 2022

Many of the challenges arising from the climate crisis depend on the same element: water.Climate change is exacerbating water problems by increasing pollution, floods, storms and droughts, while aging infrastructure Dealing with these issues has become more difficult for communities across the country.

On September 20, key stakeholders from federal agencies, academia, private industry, NGOs and charities will gather at Columbia University to discuss the future of America’s water resources. event, Ensuring America’s Water Security: Designing, Financing, and Managing Infrastructure for Climate Resiliencewill facilitate discussions on water, climate and infrastructure issues and explore action-oriented, achievable solutions to address them. register here.
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This Columbia Water Center A similar meeting was held in 2019 to discuss the need for federal investment in water infrastructure. Since then, the federal government has earmarked $50 billion through bipartisan infrastructure laws to upgrade America’s water infrastructure, but according to event organizers, the investment is just a small step in a larger problem.

Upcoming sessions will explore new strategies for designing water and wastewater infrastructure to address technological and affordability challenges, sources of investment, and identify opportunities for collective action to better address the growing threat of climate change and provide security water for social needs.

we registered with Upmanu LallDirector of the Columbia Water Center and Alan & Carol Silberstein Professor of Engineering, learn more about event and what it will bring. Lall’s work addresses the intersection of hydrology, climate dynamics, and water resource systems. In this talk, he shares why the event is so important and provides some insight on what he hopes it will cover and achieve.

Why is this event so important?

upmanu lall headshot

Upmanu Lall is the director of the Columbia Water Center.he recently received Walter Langbein Lecture Award from the American Geophysical Union for his work in hydrology.

If you look at any major climate disaster, whether it’s economic damage or loss of life, they’re all water-related, including floods, droughts, or storms. Water is also essential for manufacturing, agriculture, human health and the environment.

But much of America’s water infrastructure is 50 to 80 years old and is rotting. Many communities are dealing with the environmental hazards of aging and failing infrastructure, and local communities do not have the funds to rebuild or even maintain it. While federal investment in energy and transportation has increased, investment in water has remained largely at 1980 levels. So we’re in this perfect storm environment where the weather conditions are getting more extreme and our infrastructure isn’t up to the level that needs to be added because America hasn’t invested in it since Ronald Reagan .

Surprisingly, no one is paying attention to how to invest in better infrastructure to address these issues well in the future. So, that becomes our focus. Some groups are discussing specific water-related issues, such as lead, but the conversation is mostly about a single issue that needs to be addressed. We want to think in a bigger, more holistic context of what we need to do so that we can solve multiple problems with the same money because we don’t have the money to solve them piecemeal.

What do you want this event to accomplish?

We are working to bring together experts and leaders from tech companies, the Biden administration, advisors and implementers, community groups, ecological research and academia, and the financial industry to develop a comprehensive plan for water buildings and services in this country blueprint.

Discussions will begin with the current state of U.S. infrastructure, the future of U.S. water resources, and climate change and resilience in the context of the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Key players from industry, government, charities and the private sector will be able to share their expertise and perspectives to discuss possible goals and solutions.

We will examine practical ideas for co-financing large infrastructure projects such as dams, as well as point-of-use or community-scale solutions. On the technical side, we will look for solutions such as low-cost monitoring of water quantity and quality to ensure water system performance.

The West could face its worst drought in millennia. In many places, groundwater is drying up. Agricultural and urban areas are considering drastic cuts in water availability as large reservoirs in the west dry up. How to anticipate and address these challenges is an open question, and we’ll explore some of the ideas that data scientists have come up with, who are trying to significantly increase the data available and predict the data available so that management and financial risk reduction strategies can improve.

We hope to integrate all of these perspectives to change the dynamics so that the next opportunity to invest in federal, state, and private funds is strategically oriented toward developing new and future-proofing.

What would it look like for the United States to be more future-oriented in terms of water infrastructure?

An example would be if we were doing climate predictions and we expected extreme rainfall and flooding in certain areas, we had put in place defenses instead of waiting for people to be wiped out and then spending money to fix them up.

An example of the latter was last October, when we had a heavy rainstorm in New York that flooded the basement and killed 13 people.It turns out that many people’s basements are flooded because Sewers are blocked. So, some questions to ask are: Has anyone checked if the sewer is ok? How often to check? Who is responsible for this? And, it turns out, New York City used to have a policy of inspecting sewers every six months, but Mayor DeBlasio deemed it a waste of money to do it every two years.

But, in China, they put sensors in the sewers of all cities so that during heavy rains, they can know where the water level is rising, how much it’s raining, where it’s raining, and they can immediately start telling people if they need to. They need to evacuate an area because they can see where there might be a spill.

Why don’t we have something similar in the US? Because we don’t think about designing infrastructure in a modern environment. We’re not thinking about climate and aging infrastructure at the same time.

We understand that a white paper will be published after the event. Can you share more?

We have a preliminary version of a background paper that identifies the challenges. The plan is to work with group members to co-author a thoughtful extension of this, developing strategies to address these challenges. We hope to be able to release this information by the end of the year and use it as the basis for discussions with federal agencies, other universities, community groups, the private sector and charities to continue developing a strategic plan.

Existing collaborations between Columbia Water and other universities to address the challenges of aging dams and water infrastructure in disadvantaged communities are providing a wealth of analytical tools that will help identify where needs are and what are there in the community and beyond appropriate solution. We plan to expose these tools with our partners to support the initiative.




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