In the AWRA tradition, we bring you a series of ...

President's Message | October 2021

In the AWRA tradition, we bring you a series of thoughtful articles that demonstrate the importance of community, conversation, and connection. Flooding has been with us always, but with climate change it seems more common each year. Ida, Fred, Harvey, and Claudette are names of storms that, depending on where you live, will remind you of torrential rainfall and associated flooding on unprecedented scales. No part of the country is immune. After each event, there is a flurry of media coverage and activity on the ground, but longterm strategic solutions seem to evade us.

Why is that? In my adopted home state of Virginia, the Great Madison County flood and Hurricanes Hazel and Isabel variously conjure memories of death, economic destruction, rebuilding, or loss of power. Memories fade. Costs are staggering, and political will is fleeting. We rebuild only to revisit these tragedies again in the future. Dig deeper into some of these issues by reading Lisa Beutler’s article on memories as a tool for accomplishing change and the insightful interview with General Gerald Galloway. My takeaway from his interview is the importance of pragmatism and perseverance in tackling problems like this. What is your takeaway?

You will not be disappointed by the articles on unique community impacts and solutions. Trained as a landscape architect, Josiah Raison Cain presents many concepts that seem new and yet familiar. It is exciting to see the practice of riparian urbanism embraced in metropolitan areas across the country. As we face climate change, we need to actively and consistently look for multipurpose solutions that provide long-lasting benefits to communities. Cain provides some case studies for consideration.

Nature may also provide a tool that can be part of a comprehensive solution to flooding. Beavers, anyone? Beutler notes that in some places near where I grew up, the same beaver ponds have existed for generations, providing flood control and increasing local biodiversity. I can vouch for the accuracy of that report, and I hope you’ll attend our October 20 webinar on the benefits of beavers.

Keith Porter reminds us that earthquakes in California may have consequences for water that we are not fully aware of. He and his colleagues look at the potential effects of a significant earthquake on California’s unique water system infrastructure. He notes, “Repairing and dewatering the system could cost over $5 billion, take six years to complete, and interrupt water conveyance for a quarter million people and the state’s prime agricultural areas.” Planning for an event like this is a huge task for decision makers and affected communities alike. It will certainly take years.

Last, but certainly not least, this issue features three articles that remind us of the importance of connections to communities in achieving lasting change. As Hunter Merritt points out, the poor and marginalized in our communities are often the most impacted by flooding, given our often inequitable historic legacy. Efforts to improve resilience, Merritt notes, must be led by those very communities. Melissa Weymiller reminds us of the checkered relationship between the government and indigenous peoples and provides some notable suggestions for progress. Kevin Rowell’s commentary regarding empathy and reference to four pillars of disaster planning concludes with “It is relationship driven.” That says it all.

A few updates in closing: as you may have heard, to protect the health and safety of our members and staff, the Board of Directors made the decision for a second straight year to take the 2021 Annual Water Resources Conference virtual. My heart goes out to all the members of the local planning committee who put forth such a huge effort to host this event. Virtual or not, it will, as always, be a fantastic AWRA event and will take place November 8–10. To find out more about the conference, click here. Please register now, as you will not want to miss it!

Finally, don’t miss our AWRA Spring Specialty Conference on April 24–27, 2022. This conference, entitled “Water Risk under a Rapidly Changing World–Evaluation & Adaptation,” will be held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. To find out more, click here.

We always appreciate hearing from you. Be safe and stay well.

Scott Kudlas is the 2021 president of AWRA.


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