Thursday, October 15, 2015
On a recent trip to Brazil, Dr. Palmer participated in a summit to address a water crisis in São Paulo. Invited to provide examples, lessons learned and participatory planning options, he demonstrated the ways in which
scientists and water resource managers can engage the public in water resource management for greater support and participation in water saving measures. Come hear his presentation on this experience in Brazil and that in the northeast on Wednesday, October 21 at 3:30pm in 134 Morrill Science Center: "Engaging Stakeholders in Complex Water Resoruces Decision Making: Examples for the Northeast and from Brazil" as part of NE CSC's Engaging Stakeholders in Climate Adaptation Fall seminar series.
In August, public hearings in São Paulo brought together experts, civil society, doctors, and farmers to collect and examine evidence of an ongoing water crisis affecting much of Brazil. There had been frequent interruptions in the supply of water, an increase in cases of water-borne illnesses, disruptions to agricultural production and issues surrounding licensing for new construction in Greater São Paulo. Discussions centered on the capacity of the surrounding reservoirs to provide a continuous supply of water and how estimates of water supply and need were calculated. Advisors urged the government to recalculate water production with a consideration for the “lean” years of rainfall, to anticipate a long period of below average rainfall, and to make improvements on tertiary treatment of sewage to supplement water availability in the city.
Dr. Palmer contributed examples from California and New York, citing the need for managers of water resources to have a strategic, tactical and emergency plan and to engage the public in the development of these plans. California began preparations for a drought about 20 years ago, involving civil society with planning and sharing information. Such transparency and public participation has accounted for a reduction of water consumption by 25% and greater participation when rationing has been called for in the last five years. In another example, Dr. Palmer cited the “triggers” created by the City of New York used to alert the public and change the water supply operations when reservoir levels reach certain limits. He encouraged mangers in Sao Paulo to keep the public informed about the chances of experiencing a drought.
On Wednesday, October 21, Dr. Palmer will talk about his participation in Brazil and contrast approaches used there and in the watersheds of the Connecticut River. In the latter case, a wide range of stakeholders were incorporated into the evaluation of reservoir operations in the Connecticut River. This water resources system provides services to a variety of users, including hydropower production, flood control, municipal water supply, and a wide range of environmental services. The study, led by the Nature Conservancy and the US Army Corps of Engineers, with the participation of the USGS and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, incorporated the use of computer models in evaluating reservoir operation policies in the Connecticut River and using these models to help obtain consensus among the participants. In Brazil, computer models were also developed to explore the range of alternatives available but the lack of public involvement in the early stages of the drought resulted in a very strong and negative response against the state and federal agencies attempting to cope with the drought. Dr. Palmer will also talk about the role that climate change has played (or not played) in encouraging public participation. Read More background on the seminar and instructions for how to join remotely >>