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.
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!