LOS ANGELES, Calif.–The Los Angeles region is likely to face rising sea levels, increased flooding and impacts to the quality and quantity of its water supply, but is making progress in preparing for the effects of climate change, according to a study released this week.
The Natural Resources Defense Council report, “Thirsty for Answers: Preparing for the Water-related Impacts of Climate Change in American Cities,” analyzes the impacts of climate change on water supplies and waterways in the Los Angeles area and across the country.
“This report makes clear that some of the first, most profound and far-reaching impacts of climate change are water-related, and Los Angeles is certainly no exception,” said Michelle Mehta, an attorney for NRDC’s Water Program and a principal author of the report.
“Fortunately, the (region) has begun taking several important steps to understand and prepare for the projected impacts of climate change on area water supplies and waterways,” she said. “We encourage Los Angeles to maintain an aggressive preparedness pace and urge other communities to follow its lead.”
The NRDC is an international nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment.
Scientific data compiled in the report shows that the state has experienced a sea level rise over the past several decades at a rate of about 0.67 to 0.79 inches per decade, which is projected to continue throughout the century.
With 10 million residents, Los Angeles County is in a constant battle to maintain a sufficient fresh water supply, and the sea level rise is expected to intensify the problem by causing intrusion of saltwater into freshwater supplies, according to the NRDC.
The report found that aquifers in the area, where water is already withdrawn at a higher rate than the recharge rate, are likely to experience an increase in saltwater intrusion as a result of sea level rise. It also will degrade the quality and reliability of the fresh water pumped from the southern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which supplies water to Los Angeles’ residents, by increasing salinity.
Climate change is also expected to create an increase in average temperature, especially during the summer months, according to the study.
Projections suggest a rise of 3.6 degrees to 9 degrees by 2100. The Mediterranean climate pattern and variability of precipitation quantity are not expected to change, but simulations suggest drier conditions, according to the NRDC.
The report also describes various steps the region is taking to become more resilient to the effects of climate change. The strategies the region has adopted to prepare for the water-related impacts of climate change include:
- * Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability, a regional effort designed to deal with greenhouse gas emission reduction;
- * Department of Water and Power Sierra Nevada Study, a look at the impact of climate change on water supplies from the eastern Sierra Nevada, which provides fresh water to the city via the Los Angeles Aqueduct; and
- * GreenLA: An Action Plan to Lead the Nation in Fighting Global Warming, the city’s 2007 plan to combat climate change identifies more than 50 action items for reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
“Los Angeles is taking important steps to address climate change’s impact on water, providing a positive example for others to look to,” said Steve Fleischli, senior attorney in the Water Program at NRDC.
“Our hope is that communities throughout the Pacific Coast region and nationwide will take a cue from Los Angeles and begin the process of preparing for climate change with the same seriousness as emergency preparedness planning,” he said.