Water/Climate News Digest, September 9th

Below is a digest of some recent news stories that highlight the relationship between climate change and impacts on our nation's water resources. Please scroll to the bottom and look over the collection of recent Switchboard posts from members of the Water & Climate Team. 


Fight over a Fla. Sewer Pipe Raises National Financial and Health Issue, Climate Wire

MIami-Dade County's sewage infrastructure has been at the center of water quality problems for years.  Now a consent decree negotiated by USEPA proposes some solutions that will cost $1.6 billion, but fails to consider the fact that Miami is vulnerable to sea level rise, hurricanes, and other conditions that could be made worse as the climate warms.  Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper is trying to force the Miami-Dade County to consider climate change as part of its $1.6 billion agreement with U.S. EPA and the Deparment of Justice to eliminate raw sewage overflows.

"It could be much worse than Hurricane Sandy. If you had billions of gallons pouring into the waters, it would be a catastrophe, a calamity," said Albert Slap, an attorney supporting Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, an advocacy group.

Environmental Watchdog Wants Crop Insurance Changes, Lincoln Journal Star

NRDC’s Claire O’Connor and her crop insurance agenda, ”Your Soil Matters,” were highlighted in articles around the country that look at the federally subsidized crop insurance program. The report recommended that changes be made to crop insurance so that farmers who practice soil and water conserving measures would be rewarded with lower rates. The article also quoted the Water and Climate team’s Ben Chou who emphasized that the impacts of climate change—extreme drought and weather—on agriculture.

Most states are doing little or nothing to prepare for those extremes, Chou said, “making it more important that farmers have the best resources to protect their crops from the impact of climate change.”

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Release Rebuilding Strategy, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

A few weeks ago, President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a rebuilding strategy to help communities across the country facing the impacts of extreme weather as well as communities still rebuilding from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Most significantly, the 69 policy recommendations within the rebuilding strategy will prioritize large-scale infrastructure projects and create guidelines to ensure that these projects are resilient in the face of future extreme weather events.

“President Obama was clear that his Administration is committed to staying in the Sandy-impacted region until the work was done, and today marks a crucial step in that journey,” Secretary Donovan said. “This Rebuilding Strategy will protect families, small businesses and communities across the region, and the taxpayers’ investment in them, from the risks posed by sea level rise and more extreme weather events – risks that are made worse by the reality of a changing climate.”


Insurance and Climate Change, New York Times

The New York Times looked at climate change through the lens of insurance policy. The first, an op-ed, questions recent reform to the National Flood Insurance Program, pointing out that costs for current insurance holders will increase, causing home values plunge and triggering a crisis for those who are impacted by flooding in the future.

The second, focuses on why the insurance and reinsurance industries need new ways of modeling risk—especially as the impacts of climate change increase. While insurance companies traditionally look at past trends to predict risk, those trends are no longer reliable. New ways of statistical analysis must be developed and used in order to better prepare insurance companies, communities, and individuals from the undeniable future impacts of climate change.

The New Flood Insurance Disaster

“The reforms passed by Congress are taken from the best textbooks on floodplain management, but too much of the burden is being forced on flood-zone residents. If harsh medicine is in order — and the programs’ $25 billion debt says it is — then the cure should be effective and permanent, but not kill the patient in the process.” – Nicholas Pinter

Mutually Insured Destruction

“To fully grasp how our changing climate affects their downside, the insurance and reinsurance industries need new ways of modeling risk — systems that look at what’s happening now rather than what happened decades ago. That drive is leading insurance wonks to join forces with climate scientists, who might have found a solution.”


In other water and climate change news…

The Chicago Sun-Times called for action on climate change… At just 17 percent full, low water levels in the San Luis Reservoir threaten not only the Delta’s ecosystem but also agricultural needs warned The San Jose Mercury News… Miami, New York City, and New Orleans were highlighted in The Atlantic Cities as three of the world’s most vulnerable cities to flood disasters…


More from  NRDC's Water and Climate team:

New York's Plan for Post-Sandy Wastewater Infrastructure Projects Doesn't Go Far Enough to Promote Resilience:Becky Hammer, September 6, 2013

Healthy Soils Can Help Protect Against Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Ben Chou, August 30, 2013

As Storms Worsen, States Must Be Better Prepared for Climate Impacts (Live Science): Aliya Haq, August 26, 2013

Federal Hurrican Sandy Rebuilding Plan Can Better Prepare Us for Future Storms: Rob Moore, August 20, 2013

The Changing Climate for Flood Insurance (Live Science): Rob Moore, August 16, 2013