Climate’s Effect on Water Issues in the United States

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Climate change has impacted water resources in the United States in countless ways over the last decade. In western states, these impacts vary from severe drought to shortage of surface and groundwater resources, while at the same time, eastern and Gulf Coast states are experiencing rising sea levels and flooding. People living in Western states are facing a lack of water resources for agriculture, industry, and daily life. And people living in eastern coastal areas are fencing their residences against hurricanes, and the intrusion of every inch of ocean water there will damage buildings, drinking water reservoirs, and coastal aquifers.

Climate change has affected the United States rivers, lakes, aquifers, and groundwater reserves by changing their hydrology, ecology, and quality. For instance, the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to seven states and Mexico, has experienced drought since 2000, reducing its streamflow by about 20 percent and its reservoir storage by about half. The High Plains (Ogallala) Aquifer has also experienced significant groundwater reduction due to climate change and the demands of agricultural integration.


The impact of climate change on the economy varies from sector to sector. Still, agriculture, as a key user of ground and surface water in the United States, is significantly vulnerable. The detrimental impact of climate change on agriculture in the United States includes reduced crop growth, soil and water contamination, and harm to the health of agricultural workers due to heat exposure and other extreme weather conditions.

Since the impact of climate change is not the same in each region of the country, adaptation strategies should vary based on the unique characteristics of each region, but nationwide action is also required. Below are several beneficial policies or programs currently being implemented in the United States to address climate-related water issues:


  • EPA’s Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center (ARC-X): This is an interactive resource to help local governments effectively deliver services to their communities. Decision-makers will find information specifically tailored to the needs of their communities, relevant adaptation strategies, and EPA funding opportunities.
  • EPA’s Creating Resilient Water Utilities (CRWU): The CRWU initiative focuses on raising awareness among utilities and stakeholders by creating a clear understanding of climate change impacts and potential adoption measures in the water sector to enhance resilience to climate change. The CRWU’s Resilient Strategies Guide introduces drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities to the adaptation planning process. Utilities can use this guide to identify their planning priorities, vulnerable assets, potential adaptation strategies, and available funding sources.
  • S. Fish and Wildlife Conservation and Adaptation Resources Toolbox (CART): CART is partnering with the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center (SW CASC) to develop educational tools that help advance climate adaptation in the southwestern region with a focus on enhancing the collective ability to conserve species and natural resources in a changing climate.

While these policies and programs are helpful, raising awareness among stakeholders and key decision-makers regarding the specific regional vulnerabilities caused by climate change and the need for water-efficient policies remains important.

One method of achieving this goal would be the creation of a publicly accessible repository of information on climate-change risk parameters, the current state of the nation’s water management efforts, and the future risk posed by anticipated climate conditions.  Non-profit organizations can help by gathering the necessary information for such a repository, capacity building, advocacy, and creating effective partnerships between the private and public sectors.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard US Country Manager Sharrzad Majdameli.

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