Posts Tagged: Climate Change
Residents’ water security concerns could spur climate adaptations
Study: Climate impacts widespread across California, fueling worries over water supply
As water system managers across California devise strategies to help secure their water supply, they often face a major obstacle to implementing those measures: a lack of interest or will to act among community members.
“One of the things that the literature has found is that even if water system managers and local decisionmakers are really worried about climate change and water security, a lot of the adaptation strategies that they have in their toolbox actually require support from residents,” said Kristin Dobbin, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist focused on water justice planning and policy.
Because popular support is essential for realizing many water-related adaptations – from changing the rate structure to approving bonds for new infrastructure – Dobbin and her colleagues recently published a paper looking deeper at residents' experiences of, and concern about, climate impacts to household water supply.
Through a drinking water-focused portion of a long-term panel survey administered by California State University, Sacramento, scholars in the Household Water Insecurity Experiences research network had the opportunity to query Californians on how they are experiencing the climate crisis at their taps. Specifically, the researchers sought to analyze respondents' perceptions of future climate risks to water security.
“As a group that studies drinking water access in California, we're often looking at the system level and community level,” said Dobbin, based at the UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “So it was exciting to dive into the household level and understand what's happening at a more individual level.”
Climate impacts seen ‘up and down the state'
The statewide survey, conducted in spring 2021, elicited 704 responses from the panelists, representing every census region in the state and nearly every county. More than one-third (34%) of respondents said that their water supply had been affected by an extreme weather event in the past five years. Given the timing of the survey, drought was unsurprisingly the most frequently mentioned impact. Importantly, these climate impacts were felt across California.
“There is an inclination to assume that drought and other impacts are a geographically bounded issue, but what we really see is that is not the case,” Dobbin said. “These impacts are happening up and down the state, all the way to the Oregon border.”
Overall, 85% of respondents reported that they were concerned about the long-term reliability of their water supply. Crucially, the study also indicated that residents were making the connection between climate impacts and risks to their future water security.
“The more impacts they reported, the more concerned they were about future supply and reliability,” said study co-author Amanda Fencl, a senior climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Droughts and heat waves, in particular, seem to increase residents' concerns over water supply the most. Dobbin suggests that framing the need for water-security adaptation strategies around those specific weather events could be particularly useful in marshaling community support.
Knowing the level of concern within the community – and understanding the best way to convey the urgency of climate adaptation measures – could be a boon for local managers seeking to gain public backing for more expensive water projects. Such projects might include self-sufficiency measures that reduce reliance on imported water from other parts of the state.
“That could bolster some water managers to have more confidence in using climate change and extreme events as a way to motivate ratepayers to get on board with these bigger investment decisions,” Fencl said.
Study highlights avenues for more research
While flooding barely registered as a climate impact in the 2021 survey results, Dobbin said that the responses would likely be very different today, after atmospheric rivers inundated the state this past winter. Floodwaters can damage water treatment plants – and storms can knock out power to private wells and larger water system treatment and distribution facilities.
In fact, from the 2021 survey, power outages due to utilities' wildfire prevention policies were the climate impact most frequently mentioned in the “other” category, highlighting for researchers the need to consider and plan for the interconnectedness of water and power systems.
“People forget about the interplay between a reliable electric grid and the ability to run water in your house and the ability for water systems to pump and treat water,” Fencl explained. “When we think about disaster response and disaster preparedness, we need to be a bit more holistic.”
The researchers also pointed to significant differences in experiences of climate impacts across gender and racial demographics, with Latino, Asian American Pacific Islander and LGBTQ+ respondents reporting higher rates of impacts. Given the relatively small sample sizes, however, Fencl said there needs to be larger – and more inclusive – surveys to get a clearer picture of those disproportionate impacts.
Even still, Dobbin added that their study serves as a reminder for scholars, water managers and policymakers to re-center community members, in all their diversity, as key players in the push for more effective and sustainable climate adaptation strategies.
“One of the takeaways from the paper is that we can't forget about the role of the public in this conversation – and we can't bypass the public,” Dobbin said. “The bottom line is that most of the adaptations that we have available to us require some level of residential involvement.”
In addition to Dobbin and Fencl, authors of the study, published in the journal Climatic Change, include Gregory Pierce, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation; Melissa Beresford, San Jose State University; Silvia Gonzalez, UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute; and Wendy Jepson, Texas A&M University./h3>/h3>/h3>
John Hargrove: Targeting Tsetse, Trypanosomiasis and Climate Change
African trypanosomiasis, also called sleeping sickness, is a disease caused by a parasite. People can get this parasite when an infected Tsetse fly...
John Hargrove in South Africa providing expertise on the tsetse fly. (Photo by Pietro Ceccato of the SERVIR Applied Sciences Team)
UC Climate Steward: ‘It’s the most fulfilling work’
Climate Stewards course instructor inspires change in Butte County
Growing up in Butte County, Rose Brazil-Few has watched climate change devastate communities and ecosystems in the form of severe drought and deadly wildfire, including the 2018 Camp Fire that swept through Paradise. Through the University of California Climate Stewards program, Brazil-Few is taking action in her home county – and inspiring others to help.
“Seeing the environmental situation firsthand in California, every day I find a reason to work on climate action projects,” she explained. “It's the most fulfilling work that I could possibly be doing right now.”
As a California Climate Action Corps Fellow (a workforce development program affiliated with California Volunteers), Brazil-Few is working at the Butte Environmental Council as community sustainability coordinator. She said the UC Climate Stewards course she completed last fall – administered by the UC California Naturalist program – taught her crucial lessons she applies every day, especially on framing and conveying the climate crisis.
“One of the biggest takeaways is how to communicate about climate change while we're doing climate action work,” she said. “Sometimes you encounter community members who don't necessarily like the term ‘climate change,' but they still believe in cleaning up parks and planting trees for shade – so focusing on positive action will still accomplish your bigger goals.”
Brazil-Few will further amplify those locally rooted solutions and climate stewardship opportunities when she starts teaching her own UC Climate Stewards course this summer, through Butte Environmental Council.
“Rose is the first CCAC fellow to become a certified Climate Stewards course instructor as part of the Pathway to Leadership we co-developed with CCAC,” said Sarah-Mae Nelson, UC Climate Stewards academic coordinator. “This pathway is an opportunity for fellows to continue fostering community and ecosystem resilience in their communities as active Climate Stewards, once their official fellowship has ended.”
Since launching in fall 2020, nearly 500 people have completed the UC Climate Stewards course, which is delivered by 17 partner organizations throughout the state. Nelson noted that, in addition to the CCAC collaboration, UC Climate Stewards is also working with Sustainability Service Corps and SEI (Strategic Energy Innovations) Climate Corps – and looking into bringing the course to other states.
A 2021 graduate of Humboldt State University with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies, Brazil-Few said she appreciates that the UC Climate Stewards course instills a sense of hope and empowerment and possibility.
“I know some people who feel hopeless because there's such a focus on the doom of climate change – when in reality you can find so many programs and people in your local community making positive change,” she said.
In her community, Brazil-Few highlights the partnership efforts between the Butte County Local Food Network and area growers, the Traditional Ecological Knowledge sharing at Verbena Fields in Chico, and the continued growth of the community composting program – among many other projects.
They all illustrate a key point that Brazil-Few will emphasize as she designs her UC Climate Stewards course: a meaningful climate project need not take place at a large scale – action can happen, literally, in one's own backyard.
“It can be easily attainable and accessible,” she said. “And just talking about it with people and getting your community excited is the very first step in creating a series of events that eventually leads to a bigger impact on climate change and positive environmentalism.”/h3>
UC Davis Seminar: French Reseacher to Target Climate Change
You won't want to miss ecologist Sylvain Pincebourde's virtual seminar on climate change, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology...
These images will help tell the story when ecologist Sylvain Pincebourde presents a UC Davis-sponsored seminar on climate change on March 15.
Los Angeles 4-H program cultivates future generation of water stewards
Ibrahim Yaaseen, member of the Palos Verdes Peninsula (PVP) 4-H club, grabs a hard hat and places it on top of his head. He then reaches for a bright orange safety vest and goggles to complete his safety gear outfit before joining the rest of his club members who are dressed the same.
The 4-H Youth Development Program of Los Angeles is already thinking about the future of water management and turned to the West Basin Municipal Water District in El Segundo to gain a deeper understanding of the precious resource we often take for granted.
The University of California 4-H Youth Development Program is managed through local Cooperative Extension offices. Through hands-on learning experiences, 4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential and enables them to build self-esteem, connect with their community and emerge as leaders.
Dee Keese, community club leader for the PVP 4-H club, coordinated an exclusive and interactive tour of West Basin's Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility for the club's monthly marine biology meeting in December 2022.
Eager to inspire a stronger appreciation for water, Janel Ancayan, the West Basin's education coordinator, challenged the youth to build their own water filters using materials including fabric, a strainer, and a funnel. Since no specific directions were given, the activity challenged each student's science and engineering skills, such as carrying out an investigation, designing a solution, and communicating information with team members.
During the tour, students saw firsthand the impressive equipment and essential staff members that help to produce nearly 40 million gallons of recycled water each day. At the end of the day, students left with a deeper understanding of water resources and felt empowered to do their part to conserve water sources.
“We learned that recycling water helps to conserve our limited water supply and improves the environmental condition of our coastal waters,” said Yaaseen. “We ultimately learned a great deal about how to conserve water for future generations and that water conservation is one of the most important elements in combating climate change.”
Though Keese has volunteered as community club leader for 48 years, this is only the second time she has partnered with the West Basin. “I like to mix it up,” she said. “I'm always looking for community organizations and local businesses to partner with because these are places that the kids will likely interact with since they're nearby.”
Regardless, it's leaders like Keese and programs like 4-H that encourage water stewards like Ancayan. “I'm always so humbled and inspired when teachers make it a point to come out and visit our facility. In Southern California especially, [water] is not something we think about,” Ancayan said.
Even in a drought, water continues to flow from our faucets allowing us to shower, wash dishes or water the lawn. It's no wonder why water conservation is not always top of mind, especially for consumers. Educating the public, and targeting the younger generation, however, is a great start to prepare for the future.
West Basin offers a variety of educational programs that focus on different age groups. Many of them involve hands-on learning like the Teach and Test volunteer program, a partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, where high school students test samples of coastal water for bacteria, and then publicly share their findings to contribute to water quality monitoring in the area.
According to Yaaseen, the time spent with Ancayan at the West Basin was “one-of-a-kind” and provided a “golden opportunity” to learn why water recycling facilities are important. Ancayan hopes that her time spent with students ultimately influences them to consider a career in water.
“It's not a glamorous job but I'm really passionate about the next generation of water workers,” she said. “I hope that once they see the engineering, the excitement of these scientists that work in our laboratory and everything in between, that they start to think about water as a future career path.”
For those interested in joining 4-H, visit https://4h.ucanr.edu/Members/