Protecting Newport’s Drink Water | Part 1

Courtesy of Ambar Espinoza | Rhode Island Public Radio

With more than 500 public drinking water suppliers in the state, the Rhode Island Department of Health is worried about how they will cope with climate-related changes like intense rains, rising seas, and warmer temperatures. For the next installment of our series, Battle With The Sea, environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza heads to Newport, home to one of the most vulnerable drinking water supplies in the state when it comes to climate change.

A map by the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center, the Rhode Island Sea Grant, and the URI Environmental Data Center shows Easton Pond is vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge.

A map by the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center, the Rhode Island Sea Grant, and the URI Environmental Data Center shows Easton Pond is vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge.

Easton Pond is one of nine reservoirs that supply drinking water to all of Newport County. The pond sits in a low-lying area, right across the street from a popular beach. Its entire southern side is protected from the ocean by a large grass-covered hill called a berm.

Looking out from the berm today the waves look calm, but when a severe storm moves through, they can rise over the beach and across the road, coming dangerously close to the reservoir.

“During Sandy, the storm surge came within a foot of the top of that berm or so,” said Topher Hamblett, Save the Bay’s director of advocacy and policy, as he stood in front of the reservoir with a handful of environmental advocates, who say the pond could have been breached by Sandy’s five-foot storm surge.

 

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