Climate change is increasing the frequency and temperature of extreme heat waves and droughts in the United States and around the world, and human-induced climate change is adding about 0.6 to 1.4 inches of additional sea level rise annually (US Census Bureau, 2015). These trends raise the water and food security risk for millions of Americans, many of whom live in low-lying areas where seawalls are needed to protect buildings and infrastructure. Climate change is increasing the risk of devastating flooding, and it’s possible that by 2050, climate change could impact the survival of nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population (IPCC, 2014).
The impact of climate change, including sea level rise and flooding, is likely to exacerbate already serious water and food security vulnerabilities for low-income farmers in the South and Southwestern United States. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is committed to providing safe drinking water and other services that strengthen agricultural development and food security for American Indian communities across the Southwest. In particular, the Bureau has a long-standing partnership with local water utility providers to identify and implement plans to protect water and groundwater for agriculture and infrastructure.
To help address the growing water and food security risks for low-income farmers in the South and Southwest, the BIA is working to strengthen its existing partnership with water utility providers, build better communications between government agencies and water utility providers and local water utilities, and work with local community partners and tribal governments to identify where the most water is needed in order to protect the safety, health and economic security of low-income farmers.
The BIA is also working with the Water Program and National Resource Conservation Service to create a water-related climate action plan for the Southwest through a partnership that will provide greater access to data, identify gaps in water infrastructure, and support the development of adaptive management plans to protect water quality and availability.
The BIA will also work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Water Services Program to develop a climate change risk management plan and to identify how climate change, natural disasters, and the resulting water supply shocks to agriculture will impact USDA’s capacity to respond to those water supply