Rising water levels. Stronger storms. Water shortages. Climate change will affect the United States in a variety of ways, but water is the resource that it’s guaranteed to impact the most. In states across the country — and particularly in the west — water is already a contentious and highly political issue, and turmoil is only expected to grow in the coming years. A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council looks at the relationship between climate change and water readiness in each of the 50 states, and ranks them based on both risks and climate change preparedness.

Food, Cedar Rapids, truck, under water, flooded street, iowa

According to NRDC, 29 states have done very little or nothing to prepare for the effects that climate change will have on water resources. A number of those states do have water conservation or efficiency policies, but they aren’t currently framed within the context of climate change. Meanwhile, only nine states have developed comprehensive plans to prepare for climate change.

Two of the states that ranked the highest were California and New York (even though both states face rising sea levels, increased flooding, and water supply challenges) — partly because both have set forth strategies to reduce carbon pollution and they’ve also developed comprehensive preparedness plans addressing relevant water sectors and state agencies. On the other end, states like Texas and Alabama earned very low marks because they lack either pollution reduction or climate change preparedness planning.

The “Ready or Not” report takes into account factors like water supply challenges and more frequent and intense storms, as well as rising sea levels and coastal erosion. The report calls on governors across the US to prepare for climate change by implementing plans that protect existing resources and account for climate change vulnerabilities, like water conservation and green infrastructure. But in addition to preparing for rising water levels and changing precipitation patterns, state governments should do their part to help reduce carbon output by setting greenhouse gas reduction targets and developing plans to help their states meet those goals.

+ Ready or Not: How Water-Ready is Your State?


Photos by Flickr users USGS and axelkr