By Mike Ekberg, Manager for Water Resources Monitoring and Analysis
In my August 1, blogpost, “Climate Change: Is It Real?” we noted that our climate is always changing. Some people want to debate the cause, but that’s not nearly as important as planning for the changes that are expected.
A warming trend will amplify the extremes in our region’s climate, according to the Third National Climate Assessment. We can expect more intense summer heat waves, more droughts, and more floods.
More rain when we don’t need it and less rain when we do
The Third National Climate Assessment says here’s what we can expect over the next 35 years:
- Annual average temperature in our region is expected to increase as much as 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Winter and spring precipitation is expected to increase 10-20 percent.
- We’ll see less snow and more rain.
- Storms are likely to be stronger, increasing the chance of flooding.
- Summer rainfall is expected to drop 8 percent, increasing the chance of droughts.
- Summer droughts can increase water demands on utilities for lawn irrigation.
- More frequent summer droughts can increase water demand for crop irrigation.
The Miami Valley will need to cope with intense winter and spring rain events when human water demand is low. Likewise, we’ll need to cope with hotter – and sometimes drier – summers when human water demand is high.
Making changes now key to coping in the future
How can our region successfully cope with these challenges?
Planning and wise infrastructure investment is the key. Here are some steps communities in our region can take to prepare for a warmer future.
- Minimize paved surfaces to reduce flash flooding and streambank erosion.
- Encourage infiltration areas such as pervious pavement, rain gardens, and drainage swales to reduce urban runoff.
- Install flood warning systems in areas prone to flash flooding.
- Invest in more water storage to meet summer demands.
- Manage summer water demand through regulations, rate structures, or consumer incentives.
- Use the most efficient irrigation technologies to reduce summer water demand.
- Provide cooling shelters for people who do not have access to air conditioning during summer heat waves.
The time to act is now
Taking steps now is the key to preparing for a changing world. Our region is fortunate to have sufficient water resources and should be able to weather the forecasted changes if we manage those resources well. If we don’t prepare now, we’ll be playing catch up later, and that could prove to be costly.