About the Author: Tina Huang serves in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs in the Office of Public Diplomacy.
Gerald Galloway, Jr. is the second Senior Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) Fellow to visit Latin America. In the next two weeks, he will share his expertise on the impacts of climate change on water resource management. Dr. Galloway was one of the three Senior ECPA Fellows named by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on April 15, 2010, at the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas in Washington. The Senior ECPA Fellows program is part of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, which was announced by President Barack Obama in 2009. ECPA convene Western Hemisphere nations together to share and find scientific, technical, and policy avenues to produce and use energy sustainably, and cooperate on climate change.
Gerry Galloway is a Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and an Affiliate Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, where his focus is on water resources policy and management. Prior to joining the University of Maryland, he served as Secretary of the United States Section of the International Joint Commission (IJC), Washington, DC, an independent bi-national organization charged with preventing and resolving disputes on trans-boundary air and water quality issues between the United States and Canada under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. He has broad experience in dealing with water management and geospatial issues both within the United States and internationally. He has served as a consultant to the Executive Office of the President, and has assisted the U.S. Water Resources Council, the World Bank, the Organization of American States, TVA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, several states, and various other organizations in water resources related activities. Dr. Galloway's extended profile can be found here.
Recently, Dr. Galloway stopped by the U.S. Department of State to meet staff in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and I took this opportunity to ask the following questions:
1. As an ECPA Fellow on climate change adaptation tied to water resource management, what do you see as some interesting areas for further cooperation between the United States and Mexico?
The U.S. and Mexico not only share waters that form the boundary between the nations, but also share similar challenges in dealing with the potential and uncertain impacts of climate change on that water. We both must look for ways to more efficiently use water and to seek new sources or means of obtaining water should the scarcity increase. We must share what we learn about improving our climate predication capabilities, technologies that will enable us to more efficiently desalinate water, and approaches that will permit us to maximize or reuse the waters that we currently draw from a variety of sources. Climate change will likely increase the intensity of rainfall events that do occur and that cause repeats of the recent flooding disasters in the Rio Grande basin. Together, the U.S. and Mexico will be able to develop a flood risk management concept that will dampen the effects of such events. We must work hard to ensure a sound partnership in both using the waters we have and addressing the problems we face.
2. Can you give us a short preview of your upcoming discussion of “Facing 21st Century Realities: Too Little, Too Poor, and Too Much Water" in Jamaica. How can we best prepare for the impacts of climate change on our water resources?
Even before water professionals began to worry about climate change, they were facing a number of difficult problems. A growing population and increased development were already putting pressure on many water-related systems, including water treatment, water supply, hydropower and recreation. Water shortages in the West, a decade by decade increase in flood losses, a crumbling water infrastructure and the need to address the legacy of pollution and environmental degradation added to the difficulties that have to be considered. Put climate change on top of those problems and the challenges soar. The years ahead will require these professionals, with the support of the public at large, to develop adaptation measures that will permit us to maintain our economy, our environment and our quality of life. We must all recognize that now is the time to begin work on these adaptation measures.
3. In your opinion, what is the role of public involvement in both the technical and policy developments of water management in Latin America?
Integrated water resources management (IWRM), an international goal for effective use of our water, seeks to ensure that as we plan future use of these resources we are considering the multiple sectors that rely on water, the interaction among these sectors, and the economic, social and environmental policies that define who uses what water where. What makes IWRM different than conventional water planning is the need to fully involve the public in the decision process. For decades the approach to water management has been one of governments telling the public what actions needed to be taken and then carrying out those actions. Today, to ensure that we are meeting the challenges of social justice and intergenerational equity in this planning process, affected citizens must be given the opportunity to voice their opinions and have these opinions addressed. Modern technologies, including ever increasing use of multi-media and social networking, offer unique opportunities to broaden the level and effectiveness of public participation in water resources decision making. It only remains necessary to begin using these tools and techniques.
It is my pleasure to participate in the upcoming public dialogues on water resource management and climate change across Latin America. I hope to be a resource to governments and civil society in the region, and I look forward to your questions and the ongoing discussions.