On Thursday, June 2 the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Interagency Climate Change Task Force released a draft National Action Plan for managing freshwater resources in a changing climate. The report can be found on the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Web site, along with supporting documents regarding the development of the report.

The draft National Action Plan (NAP) synthesizes the latest science on climate risks to freshwater resources and establishes that “Government agencies and citizens collaboratively manage freshwater resources in response to a changing climate in order to assure adequate water supplies, to protect human life, health and property and to protect water quality and aquatic ecosystems.”

The draft NAP emphasizes the need to ensure that adequate supplies of surface and groundwater are available for use by the agricultural sector in the US.  The Task Force interviewed key stakeholders from various federal agencies and industries, including USDA, to determine what actions were already being taken to address water supply issues in a changing climate.

Draft National Action Plan Recommendations

The Interagency Climate Change Task Force provides program recommendations to Federal agencies to address water supply issues as a result of climate change.  These recommendations include:

  1. Establish a planning process to adapt water resources management to a changing climate
  2. Improve water resources and climate change information
  3. Strengthen assessment of vulnerability
  4. Expand water use efficiency
  5. Support integrated water resources management
  6. Support training and outreach to build response capability

The CEQ is now soliciting public comments on the draft National Action Plan no later than July 15, 2011. Comments will be posted directly on the report Web site.

Background on the Interagency Climate Change Task Force

In October 2010, the Task Force released a progress report outlining recommendations to the Obama administration to ensure that Federal agencies like the USDA have the capacity to adapt to climate change.

The task force held public outreach meetings in 2010 throughout the US to understand the challenges faced by stakeholders of various Federal agencies. Participants in these public meetings highlighted key challenges, including:  implementation of new on-farm management strategies, changes to water supply availability, extreme weather events and changes in pest and disease outbreaks.

Potential strategies to address these challenges emerged in these meetings as well and include: continued assistance from the USDA in the form of crop insurance, Extension and technical assistance/cost-sharing to implement conservation practices and the development of new plant varieties and production practices.