East-West Center analysis about water resources and climate change
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Water Resources in American Samoa: Law and Policy Opportunities for Climate Change Adaptation
by Richard Wallsgrove and Zena Grecni

(Honolulu: East-West Center, 2016)
32 pp.
Download PDF file free of charge

Freshwater resource managers in American Sāmoa are facing climate change issues. A projected increase in frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events, rising sea level, and rising air temperature are among these climate-related dynamics. This confirms the need for effective climate change adaptation strategies, particularly with respect to protecting water quality. The existing law, policy, and management framework for American Sāmoa's freshwater resources is somewhat fractured, consisting of overlaid US federal environmental laws and regulations, territorial laws and policies, utility management of groundwater, and village-based management of surface water. This framework presents both challenges and opportunities, but foundational adaptive needs--such as resource monitoring, awareness, and continuing climate research--are pressing. This work identifies nine opportunities to enhance adaptive capacity within American Sāmoa's existing law and policy framework.

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Water Resources and Climate Change Adaptation in Hawai'i: Adaptive Tools in the Current Law and Policy Framework
by Richard Wallsgrove and David Penn
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Executive Summary

Climate change adaptation is the process of increasing resilience and reducing vulnerability to risks related to climate change. From a law and policy perspective, adaptation primarily means: (i) ensuring that current policies and procedures account for climate trends, variability, and uncertainty; and (ii) ensuring that, when decision-makers receive new information from climate scientists in the future, they can appropriately act on that information with the existing policies and procedures. One particularly relevant observation of adaptation points out that it is not just about creating new policies, but about routinely considering how the future climate may affect the outcomes of decisions, and using that understanding to make more informed decisions.

The need for adaptive tools is especially sharp in the context of managing vital water resources. Hawai'i water experts have recognized that alterations in rainfall, temperature, wind, or other climate phenomena have the potential to devastate natural resources and human communities. This paper identifies twelve potential adaptive tools that are not presently implemented in Hawai'i, or that are implemented only in part. Each tool is consistent with the existing law and policy framework, and each exhibits adaptive characteristics. Many of these tools are derived from existing models, already tested in Hawai'i or elsewhere.


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