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State Official Highlights Climate Change As Challenge For Water Systems

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U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
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Shellie Chard, water quality division director at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, testifies remotely from Oklahoma City before a U.S. Senate committee on March 17, 2021.

A top official at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality testified before a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday that climate change threatens water system infrastructure across the country. 

"State programs for water and wastewater systems are struggling to meet the challenges we are now facing, including changing weather patterns resulting in extreme events" like February's extreme cold stretch, ODEQ Water Quality Division Director Shellie Chard told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. 

"Water and wastewater systems must become more resilient to significant weather events and changes in climate," Chard said. 

Chard called on the committee, which includes Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, for additional federal funding for states to "upgrade and improve infrastructure." 

Chard, who is also Past-President of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, also testified that inflexible regulations, understaffing and inadequate workforce training, and lack of funding for other water system operations are also challenges for systems across the nation.

Inhofe, who introduced Chard at Wednesday's hearing, did not question her on her climate change testimony. The senior senator for Oklahoma has, in the past, famously dismissed climate change as a hoax and displayed a snowball on the Senate floor in an attempt to make that point.

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