October 6, 2022

Discover practical solutions for water security

Discover practical solutions for water security

By Emily Hallnon
|September 7, 2022

Many of the challenges posed by the climate crisis depend on one element: water. Climate change exacerbates water issues through increased pollution, floods, storms and droughts, while aging infrastructure across the country makes it harder for communities to cope.

On September 20, leading stakeholders from federal agencies, academia, private industry, NGOs and charities will gather at Columbia University to discuss the future of water in the United States. Event, Ensuring America’s Water Security: Designing, Financing, and Managing Infrastructure for Climate Resiliencefosters debate on water, climate and infrastructure issues and explores practical and achievable solutions to address these issues. Register here.
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particle for direct object Columbia Water Center It hosted a similar conference in 2019 that explored the need for federal investment in water infrastructure. Since then, the federal government has committed $50 billion to upgrade America’s water infrastructure through the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, but event organizers say the investment is just a small step toward addressing the larger issue.

The upcoming conference will explore new strategies for designing water and sanitation infrastructure that address technical and cost-effective challenges, where investments can come from, and identify opportunities for collective action that can better address the growing threats of climate change and provide safe water. present, will review. For social needs

We entered with Apmanu Laldirector of the Columbia Water Center and Alan and Carol Silberstein Professor of Engineering, to learn more about Event And what will follow. Lal’s work is at the intersection of hydrology, climate dynamics, and water resource systems. In this conversation, he shares why the event is so important and offers insights into what he hopes to cover and achieve.

Why is this event so important?

upmanu lall headshot

Apmanu Lal is director of the Columbia Water Center. She Recently received Walter Langbein Lecture Award from the American Geophysical Union for his work in hydrology.

If you look at any of the major weather disasters in terms of property damage or loss of life, they all involve water, including floods, droughts or hurricanes. Water is also essential for production, agriculture, human health and the environment.

But, most water infrastructure in the United States is between 50 and 80 years old and deteriorating. Many communities struggle with environmental hazards from aging and deteriorating infrastructure, and local communities lack the funds to rebuild or even maintain this infrastructure. While federal investments in energy and transportation have increased, water investments are essentially at levels seen in the 1980s. So, we’re in this perfect storm situation where the weather conditions are getting more severe and our infrastructure is not in shape. It has to come in because the US hasn’t invested in it since Ronald Reagan.

Surprisingly, no one has looked at how to invest in better infrastructure that will handle these issues well in the future. Therefore, this has become our focus. There are groups that talk about specific water problems like lead, but the talk is more about a unique problem that needs to be solved. We want to think about what we need to do on a larger, more comprehensive scale to solve multiple problems with the same money, because we don’t have the money to solve these problems piecemeal.

What do you hope this event will achieve?

We are working to bring together experts and leaders from technology companies, the Biden administration, consultants and executives, community groups, environmental research and academia, and the financial industry to create a comprehensive plan for water architecture and water services in this country.

The discussion will begin with the current state of US infrastructure, the future of water in America, and climate change and resiliency as part of the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Key players from industry, government, philanthropy and the private sector can share their expertise and perspectives to discuss goals and possible solutions.

We will explore practical ideas for synergistic financing of large infrastructure projects such as dams, as well as point-of-use or neighborhood-scale solutions. On the technology front, we will seek to identify solutions such as low-cost monitoring of water quantity and quality to ensure water system performance.

The West is facing perhaps the worst drought in recent millennia. In many places, groundwater is decreasing. Agriculture and urban areas are facing major reductions in water availability as large reservoirs in the west dry up. How to anticipate and address these challenges is an open question, and we will explore some of the ideas coming from data scientists who are trying to dramatically increase the amount of data available and predict its availability in order to reduce managerial and financial risk. . Strategies can be improved.

We want to integrate all of these perspectives to change the dynamic so that the next opportunity is to invest federal, state and private money strategically toward the development of something new and forward-looking.

Does the United States seem more forward-looking with water infrastructure?

An example is if we do climate forecasts, and predict heavy rain and flooding in some area, instead of waiting for people to die and then spending money to fix them, we take defensive measures. Top

The second example is last October, when we had a severe rainstorm in New York and massive basement flooding that killed 13 people. It turns out that many people’s basements are flooded due to blocked drains. So, some questions to ask are: Has anyone checked to see if the drain is OK? How often is it checked? Who is responsible for this? And it turns out that New York City used to have a policy of inspecting sewers every six months, but Mayor de Blasio decided that was a waste of money and did it every two years.

But in China, sensors have been installed in all city sewers to know when it rains, where the water level rises, how much it rains, where it rains, and if needed, they can start informing people immediately. that they should evacuate a certain area because they can see where they might overflow.

Why don’t we have this in the US? Because we are not thinking about infrastructure design in a modern context. We don’t think about the climate problem and the aging infrastructure problem together.

We understand that a white paper will be released after this event. Can you share more about it?

We have an early version of a background paper that identifies the challenges ahead. The plan is to work with panel members to develop a thoughtful development strategy that provides solutions to these challenges. We hope to publish this by the end of this year and use it as a basis for discussions with federal agencies, other universities, community groups, the private sector, and philanthropy to continue building a strategic initiative.

The Columbia Water Center’s existing work with other universities to address aging dams and water infrastructure challenges for underserved communities provides rich analytical tools that help identify needs and appropriate solutions at community and larger scales. Together with our partners, we plan to make these tools publicly available to support this initiative.

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