Report: Climate change worsens Western water woes
By John Flesher (Associated Press) – April 28, 2011
Climate change is likely to diminish already scarce water supplies in the Western United States, exacerbating problems for millions of water users in the West, according to a new government report.
A report released Monday by the Interior Department said annual flows in three prominent river basins — the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin — could decline by as much 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades. The three rivers provide water to eight states, from Wyoming to Texas and California, as well as to parts of Mexico.
The declining water supply comes as the West and Southwest, already among the fastest-growing parts of the country, continue to gain population.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called water the region’s “lifeblood” and said small changes in snowpack and rainfall levels could have a major effect on tens of millions of people.
The report will help officials understand the long-term effects of climate change on Western water supplies, Salazar said, and will be the foundation for efforts to develop strategies for sustainable water resource management.
The report notes that projected changes in temperature and precipitation are likely to alter the timing and quantity of stream flows in all Western river basins, with increased flooding possible in the winter due to early snowmelt and water shortages in the summer due to reductions in spring and summer runoffs. Changes in climate could affect water supplies to a range of users, from farms and cities to hydropower plants, fish, wildlife and recreation, the report said.
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