The Alliance submitted comments to the EPA yesterday on the National Water Programs 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change. We commended their continuing focus on the issue of climate change/global warming, and its interconnections with vital environmental and societal concerns in the National Water Program.
New Orleans is located at the nexus between the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Gulf of Mexico, and faces ongoing challenges from flooding from each of those water bodies, along with intense weather events such as hurricanes and rain storms. We have a sophisticated system of water pumps that prevents flooding during minor and major storm events. The pumping stations are critical to New Orleans’ current storm-water management but the cost is very high. Our pumping stations are responsible for 50% of the city government’s energy use.
The city of New Orleans has engaged in a process of reassessing its relation to water as part of the restoration process following Hurricane Katrina. Local government has joined with the private sector and global partners in efforts such as the “Dutch Dialogues”, a project with the theme of “Living with Water.” Discussions about utilizing natural and engineered waterways such as canals and bayous as part of the city’s flood management system could point the way to a more sustainable and less energy-intensive approach in the future.
Infrastructure issues are also crucially related to water and energy concerns. Following the floods of Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has rebuilt and upgraded the New Orleans flood protection system to the authorized level of 100-year protection, at an estimated total cost of up to $14.5 billion. The state has approved an update of its Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, which includes restoration and protection projects budgeted at $50 billion over the next 50 years.
The degree to which we and other coastal cities and communities integrate energy and water into our planning will determine whether we secure a sustainable future as we respond to sea-level rise and hydrological changes as a result from global warming. At the same time, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions must be an integral part of these efforts, since the degree of projected changes (and the costs of responding to them) will be affected significantly by the amount of warming fueled by emissions. This fact is best demonstrated in our most recent coastal Comprehensive Master Plan. According to the lead scientist on the project, the plan utilizes the moderate predictions for warming as the higher end projections would require relocating the southern part of the state to higher ground.
We support the integration of energy issues with water concerns in the draft strategy, especially the importance of energy efficiency as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as water planning is implemented. The Alliance has long focused on the importance of improving energy efficiency for all economic sectors. Our future depends on effective planning which integrates water and energy.