A recent report from the National Wildlife Federation states that Southeastern states should diversify their water sources and boost efficiency measures to prepare for an uncertain supply that may become even more unpredictable amid climate change.
The report from the national conservation group urges regional water planners to pour more resources into plugging leaks and increasing water efficiency rather than building new reservoirs.
The report warns that climate change could cause longer dry seasons, heavier rainy seasons and rising sea levels that could lead to more saltwater intrusions. Each would make the region's water supply even more uncertain.
“Global warming presents new challenges for managing America's water resources, especially in our Southeastern states,” says Amanda Staudt, a climate scientist for the federation. “To prevent the worst impacts of climate change and limit the impacts on communities and wildlife, we must reduce global warming pollution.”
The Southeast is in the grips of an epic drought that has forced water managers to restrict water use and prompted state officials to squabble over shared resources.
Despite good rainfall amounts in most areas of the region during the winter months, record-low streamflows and other drought indicators still were being reported in the eastern portion of South Carolina during the latter part of January.
The National Wildlife Federation report concludes that the drought only underscores the region's vulnerability, which will be tested with millions of new residents in the coming decades.
The region's population has doubled since 1960, the report says, while the water used over the same period has tripled.
It suggests that water managers develop new strategies to address saltwater intrusion, a lingering problem, especially along the coastal regions of Georgia and the Carolinas.
It also suggests that water managers only operate plants at low tide and that they move freshwater intakes to higher ground to preserve the fresh water supply.