Facing the Future of Utilities and Climate Change

Preparation and public support are key pieces in keeping your communities safe and healthy

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to believe. The opinions of small factions of the population gain outsized publicity through social media and the media proper. Conspiracies and extreme viewpoints have become mainstream, or so it seems. 

The most extreme viewpoints get the press, and as a result often have undue influence on our perspectives of what’s really happening —– of the real truth. Facts are blurred and people are left wondering what to believe.

Climate change is certainly a topic that has been sucked into this cycle. Regardless of the causes or what you believe them to be or not be, it’s pretty difficult at this point to effectively argue that climate change isn’t real. The statistics very clearly bear that out.

And if it seems like it’s all a matter of greater attention and coverage given to extreme weather events, consider this: National Centers for Environmental Information statistics show that between 1980 and 2022, the U.S. annually averaged 8.1 extreme weather events with damage exceeding $1 billion. Over the most recent five years (2018-22) that average was 18.0 events, and through July 11 of this year we stand at 12 events. That doesn’t take into account the devastating flooding happening in Vermont and other parts of the Northeast as I write this in mid-July. 

“Make no mistake, the devastation and flooding we’re experiencing across Vermont is historic and catastrophic,” Gov. Phil Scott told reporters.

Flooding in that state was worse than what Hurricane Irene brought in 2011. Video footage of neighborhoods swallowed by floodwater was stunning. Some areas received over 8 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Seven-day rainfall totals across much of the Northeast were estimated at 300% to 500% of normal levels. Streets looked like rivers. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, and that was just in Vermont. 

“My friends, this is the new normal,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told the press on Monday, noting that people must “be prepared for the worst, because the worst continues to happen.”

These sorts of events continue to happen across the country and around the world, whether it’s flooding, blizzards, tornados, hurricanes, drought or wildfire. Wherever you live, you’re not out of reach. And natural disasters don’t care about anyone’s politics. 

What’s critically important is that you continue to talk about your mission, to educate people about the work you do, the necessity of securing and protecting water resources, preparing for worst-case scenarios and providing the services that keep your communities healthy and safe. Better infrastructure, better safeguards, stronger systems and carefully curated contingencies — these are the sorts of difference-makers your utilities can provide with proper public support.

That last part is the key, obviously — getting the public to understand the reality of these environmental factors and the necessity of supporting the work you do. It’s as big a task as any other major project you take on, but it could be the most important thing you do. 

Your efforts are certainly appreciated by the staff of this magazine and all its readers.

Here’s hoping you’re ready for the next storm.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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