Tonight, the 10 leading Democratic candidates take the stage for a debate, the third in the cycle. Each one of them has been busy over the past few months releasing their climate plans, and they all participated in the recent seven-hour long marathon climate town hall. There is a lot of overarching similarity between most of the plans (Andrew Yang, as in a many policy areas, is a bit of an outlier with his stances on geoengineering and nuclear energy), but only a few lay out details relating to water.
Here’s where Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang stand:
It should be noted that the renewable energy or net-zero emissions plans that each candidate has will have a significant impact on water, as our traditional fossil fuel-based energy portfolio is incredibly water intensive.
So, why is water so important in this discussion? For one thing, 93 percent of climate change impacts will be felt in the water sector, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Droughts and floods have already become more of an issue for every sector of the country: cities, agriculture, industry. Cities that cannot manage their water will find fewer companies willing to locate there and bring employees. As demands on water sources increase, if businesses are not willing to reduce their demand, they may find themselves at the back of the queue in getting access. Smart water management is the key to sustainability in every sense of the word.
The real estate industry is one area that is already starting to feel the pinch. Put aside the issues with the real estate industry and sea level rise, some lakeside communities are already finding themselves high and dry. For example, as water infrastructure crumbles, a quasi-governmental river authority in Texas is draining lakes to ensure more damage is not caused when the dams fail.
Climate change is not a single issue, but many wrapped into one. Water is a key issue. Infrastructure, resiliency, water quality—these are all critical aspects related to water. It is imperative for the candidates to recognize that water flows through every aspect of our lives.
Plans should include intersectionality, not simply grouping things together. As a start, we need to give the water sector a role in renewable energy goals. We also need to increase technical support and funding for new business models for the water utility sector, which typically lags behind electric utilities when it comes to innovation. In the end, if water is not on the table for discussion, we may soon find it’s not available for drinking, either.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Kate is a writer and policy wonk, with a focus on water, clean energy, climate change and environmental security. She spent over a decade running energy-water nexus and energy efficiency programs at Environmental Defense Fund as well as time at the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense, U.S. Government Accountability Office, and state and federal legislatures. She serves as an Advisory Board member of CleanTX, which aims to accelerate the growth of the clean tech industry in Texas.