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Winter Storm Lays Bare Texas’ Climate Challenge: Invest Urgently in Resilient Water Infrastructure, Conservation, Equity

(Image: REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

The National Wildlife Federation, a founding member of the Texas Living Waters Project, released the following statement on Winter Storm Uri:

With millions of Texans emerging from a week of water and power outages and boil-water notices, the National Wildlife Federation urged state decision-makers to use the current legislative session to address the long-running water infrastructure challenges laid bare by Winter Storm Uri. With its record-breaking polar vortex crippling life for millions of households, the storm highlights Texas’ paired concerns of intensifying climate extremes and booming urban populations. The organization emphasized the urgent need to upgrade urban water infrastructure, improve conservation measures, support resilience, and address equity issues such as water affordability and access.

“Extreme weather events are a part of Texas’ present and future,” said Amanda Fuller, Texas Coast and Water Program director at the National Wildlife Federation. “After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the state took significant steps to mitigate against increased rainfall events — it set aside significant funding, established participatory planning processes, and incentivized nature-based solutions. We urge Texas legislators to take a similarly urgent, comprehensive, and environmentally-sound approach to building resilient water infrastructure in the wake of Uri.” 

“Water utilities have been struggling with extreme weather, growing populations, and aging, leaking infrastructure for decades now,” said Jennifer Walker, deputy director of the program. “Not only do we need to invest in our delivery systems, we need to decrease the demand placed on them by improving water conservation practices. We need to ensure our infrastructure is of equal quality in every community and build our water systems in an informed, holistic manner that ensures all of Texas is better prepared to deal with worsening climate extremes.”

Alongside its broader legislative recommendations for the 2021 session, the organization called on elected officials to:

  • Commission an in depth study by a research institute to investigate: 1) what went wrong with municipal water infrastructure across the state during Winter Storm Uri, and 2) the overall state of our water infrastructure, including leaks and water loss. 
  • The study should produce a report outlining pathways forward, including recommendations to guide future planning and investment.

The National Wildlife Federation has more than two decades of experience working on Texas water issues. Its Texas Coast and Water Program promotes integrated urban water management and nature-based flood mitigation solutions to improve climate resilience in the state. 

Details of the program’s full 2021 legislative recommendations can be found here.

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