by Jennifer Weaver, Water and Energy Justice Researcher, Durham Office
Click here for a link to the full report
All people have a right to clean, affordable water, but climate change, which we are already experiencing, will only add further big challenges to assuring that right.
There are major uncertainties about precisely when and where climate change-related weather events – massive hurricanes, bigger, wetter inland storms, severe drought, sea level rise and saltwater intrusion – will strike. That uncertainty provides all the more reason for local governments to plan their responses and everyday policies that ensure every resident, especially the most vulnerable, maintains access to clean water at reasonable cost.
Princeville, NC was mostly underwater when Hurricane Floyd hit in 1999.
Flooding, droughts, population growth and wasteful uses all contribute to water scarcity, which increases rates, putting access to water out of reach for many users. Local water systems also are stressed by the need for maintenance and upgrades, which also increases rates. In addition, North Carolina’s continued reliance on coal and nuclear energy – two extremely water-intensive means of energy production – means power plants are sucking up and evaporating large volumes. Agricultural practices that are both water-intensive and have no water permitting system leave agribusiness little incentive to conserve. Similarly, many local water suppliers charge flat fees or “decreasing block rates” (a discount for larger volume users), which leaves users with little incentive to conserve.
Several steps must be taken to commit our state to water justice:
- State and local government must undertake a public education effort to make conservation a social norm, rather than something only done under emergency conditions.
- Local water systems must convert to increasing block rate structures (higher charges for larger volume users) and be forward-thinking with planning for infrastructure upgrades.
- The state must implement a permitting system for water withdrawals.
- State and local governments must support efforts to convert to less water-intensive, renewable energy sources.
- State and local governments must acknowledge and prepare for the reality of sea level rise, rather than “kicking the can down the road.”
Water justice in the era of climate disruption means that policies must be implemented at the state and local level in order to protect and prepare for these new environmental conditions and mitigate the effects of extreme weather for vulnerable populations, wherever they exist. Many of the necessary infrastructure needs and policy changes are likely to be costly, so local governments must ensure that services remain affordable to financially strapped residents in addition to making sure appropriate infrastructure reaches them.
For the full report, click here.
Historic Thousands on Jones St. (“HKonJ”) 2015
Saturday, February 14, Raleigh
Meet at 9AM across from Raleigh Memorial Auditorium on South St.
March begins at 10 AM, Rally will be near the State Capital on Fayetteville St.
Forward together – not one step back! Clean Water for North Carolina, a long-time HKonJ partner, will join in the 9th annual HKonJ mass rally this February.
Clean Water for NC asks you to join with the NAACP of NC, more than a hundred “HKonJ” partner groups, and tens of thousands of other folks from across the state on Saturday, Feb. 14. We’re calling for Environmental Justice, Economic Justice, Voting Rights, Health Justice and more!
Dress warmly, bring friends, and, if you can, carry signs that tie our environmental passions to the wider social justice and democracy that we seek (we’ll come with extra signs and announce a meeting place soon).
If you are a Clean Water for NC volunteer and can bring at least two folks with you to the march from 50 or more miles away from Raleigh, we can reimburse you at our volunteer mileage rate. We can also help with cost of vans, so please contact us at 828-251-1291 or 919-401-9600. More information will be posted on this site soon, or visit http://www.hkonj.com.
Six former officials of Freedom Industries, the chemical company behind the massive chemical spill into the Charleston, WV water supply, have been charged with multiple criminal violations of the Clean Water Act. In January, 300,000 people’s water was dangerously contaminated with a toxic industrial chemical because of a leak from Freedom Industry’s containment system.
The former officials are being held accountable for their negligence, and one man faces up to 68 years in prison, thanks to a persistent news media and the strong actions of regional federal Justice Officials. In a press release, US Attorney General Eric Holder stated that “compliance with environmental safety standards is an obligation, not a choice.” Justice is being brought to this clear case of wrong doing, as it ought to be.
That the Clean Water Act is being enforced should be commonplace, but unfortunately it is breaking news. And in North Carolina, in light of Duke Energy’s Dan River Coal Ash Spill and ongoing water pollution from its coal ash dumps, we are still waiting for the justice system to have its day.
Falls Lake during the 2007-2008 drought.
By Jenn Weaver, Water & Energy Justice Organizer
Climate change is here, and many communities are now grappling with how to be more resilient to the challenges these environmental changes will bring. The concept of “Climate Justice”, like Environmental Justice, maintains that vulnerable communities – communities of color, poor communities, rural communities – are going to suffer the effects of climate change most quickly and deeply unless real effort goes into preventing or mitigating those unequal effects. What are the climate change impacts on water likely to be? Drought, sea level rise, storm water flooding, extreme heat or cold, salt contamination of drinking water, high prices for water, food and energy– all of these are possible, or even likely, outcomes of climate change that North Carolina is going to face or, in some cases, already is facing.
Princeville, NC was mostly underwater when Hurricane Floyd hit in 1999.
Clean Water for NC is taking a look at how North Carolina communities will be affected, and the steps that need to be taken to ensure water justice in the face of climate change in our state. To understand the job that faces local governments and the communities they are sworn to protect, we will harken back to hurricane Floyd in 1999 and to the drought of 2007 to reflect on how vulnerable communities were harmed, and lessons learned from those events. We will also explore the challenges local governments face in making the necessary adjustments to policies and operations. For example, all North Carolinians must have access to clean and affordable drinking water, so local governments will need to charge enough for water service to keep up with infrastructure requirements – not just for expansions, but for replacing and repairing broken or leaky pipes that waste this increasingly precious resource. What kind of pricing system will encourage conservation, keep up with infrastructure needs, and remain affordable for those low income residents? When large numbers of wells are contaminated by storm flooding, will state and local governments be prepared to provide safe replacement water supply?
We will examine these questions and more – be on the lookout for our report on climate impacts on water justice in North Carolina in the coming weeks!