State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


New Project Will Develop Climate Action Plan to Ensure New York City Water Quality

Adapted from an announcement by Columbia News

aerial view of reservoir
An aerial view of the Pepacton Reservoir in Delaware County, New York. The reservoir supplies around 25% of New York City’s drinking water. Photo: Josh Dick/Watershed Agricultural Council

Nearly three million dollars in federal funding will support a project implemented by Columbia University in partnership with New York City’s Watershed Agricultural Council. The funds will be used to develop a climate action plan that defines the potential impact of climate change on the city’s water supply, proposes actions to reduce that impact, and devises an adaptation strategy that ensures that agricultural production practices in the Hudson Valley continue to support the protection of New York City’s water quality.

New York City’s water supply system collects and transports surface water from 2,000 square miles of land in three upstate watersheds. The approved funds will enable the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project at Columbia Climate School’s Center for Climate Systems Research to work with the Watershed Agricultural Council to develop a climate action plan to mitigate the effects of climate change on the city’s water supply. The project will work with farmers and community stakeholders upstate to ensure that agriculture and climate modeling methods are designed to meet their needs.

“This project provides a wonderful opportunity for the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) to apply the best of our agriculture and climate research and modeling to help farmers respond to the climate crisis,” said Cynthia Rosenzweig, AgMIP’s founder. “It’s providing a fantastic opportunity for the team to work with the Watershed Agricultural Council to support the development of climate-resilient farm and land management practices and to facilitate the work of New York City to protect its drinking water resources.”

Funding for the project was approved after Columbia worked with elected officials, specifically Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Representative Jerrold Nadler, to ensure its inclusion in the omnibus spending bill that passed Congress and was signed into law in December 2022.

“I fought for and secured $2.95 million in federal funds for Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) in the federal budget bill I shepherded through Congress,” said Schumer. “The university’s CCSR is at the forefront of global climate modeling, a key tool for New York as we prepare for climate change’s impacts. I’m proud to support this project that helps protect New York City’s water supply from agriculture-based contaminants, better prepares the city for climate-related impacts, and supports the economic viability of farming throughout the state.”

“Investing in New York’s watershed is critical to sustaining our drinking water system for generations to come,” said Nadler. “I’m proud to have worked with Columbia University to deliver this funding, which will put into action a plan to meet the challenges posed by the climate crisis while protecting New Yorkers’ health.

At the Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia and NASA scientists work closely together to advance climate science and improve societal resilience to climate-related challenges both in the United States and around the world.

The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) is a major international collaborative effort to enhance the scientific rigor of global agricultural modeling and to improve understanding of climate impacts on the food system.

The Watershed Agricultural Council was created to work with farmers to reduce the impact of agriculture on New York City’s water systems. The new project will support the council as it implements management practices that protect the watershed, while supporting the economic viability of farming and local rural communities upstate.

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