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Conserving Water in a Changing Climate ? for our Health and for Hockey

by Gina McCarthy /

Gina McCarthy is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In January 2010, the NHL chose my hometown of Boston to host the Winter Classic.  It was a great day all around—not only did my Bruins win that game with a thrilling OT victory, but the NHL also chose my backyard, Fenway Park, to launch their NHL Green Initiative.  Since then, the NHL has been putting points on the board by greening operations and committing to protecting our environment.

Since 2011, the NHL has restored more than 30 million gallons of water to streams and rivers and has improved water efficiency for indoor and outdoor rinks. This season, NHL’s Gallons for Goals program replenished more than 6.5 million gallons of water to rivers.  Whether it’s turning on our faucets to take a drink, or skating on frozen ponds and outdoor rinks—water is a precious, finite resource that’s vital not only for our health, but also for recreation.  

But today, we’re facing new threats to our water resources, including resource risks from a changing climate.  So we need to be more vigilant than ever in water conservation, and EPA is leading the charge.  

EPA’s Clean Water Rule aims to protect streams and wetlands vulnerable to pollution.  These water resources provide habitats for the wildlife and recreation we enjoy; and most importantly, they provide drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans across the country.  

Being vigilant in protecting water resources means we must be mindful of climate impacts.  For example, in Southeast Florida where the 2015 NHL Draft will take place, sea levels are predicted to rise nearly two feet in our children’s lifetimes. Rising seas are already pushing contaminated salt water into the region’s drinking water.  

And any Bruins fan knows that this winter, Boston was pummeled by over 100 inches of snow, the snowiest season in Boston's history.  It was a costly, frustrating, and dangerous situation for so many Bostonians.   If that’s not a climate change signal-flare, I don’t know what is.  When climate change amplifies risks from extreme weather, we all pay the penalty.  A few months ago, I got to hang out with pro skiers and snowboarders at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado, where climate impacts hit home.  Shorter, warmer winters mean a shorter season to enjoy the winter sports we love, and an economic burden for communities that depend on winter sports and recreation.

Those are just a few examples of how climate change impacts our everyday lives.  The good news is, together, we can do something about it—that’s why EPA’s is proud to partner with the NHL.

I think Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Mike Richter put it best when he said, “It is imperative that we take the time to understand these issues and make the effort to become strong environmental stewards. The future of our sport, and your local pond hockey game, depends on all of us.”

When we conserve water, fight climate change, and build a sustainable future—we’re not just protecting our families; we’re also boosting economic growth.  When cities invest in updating old water systems to include ‘green’ infrastructure, our water is cleaner, our communities are more resilient to climate impacts, and people and businesses save energy and money—it’s a win-win-win.

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