A new basin-by-basin study released by the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation highlights the impacts of climate change as it pertains to the hydroelectric power supply, health, economy, security and ecology of 17 western states.
Released this past week as part of World Water Day festivities at the White House Summit on Water, the document — titled The SECURE Water Act Report — is available for download through Reclamation’s website here.
The study says climate change is a growing risk to water management in the western U.S., with changes in precipitation, warmer temperatures, snowpack, and the timing and quality of streamflow runoff in major basins posing threats to sustainability.
As a result, Reclamation said hydropower, water supply, quality and operations, groundwater resources, flood control, recreation, and fish, wildlife and other ecological resources remain at risk.
“One of the greatest challenges we face is dealing with the impacts of climate change on our nation’s water, which is really the lifeblood of our economy,” DOI Deputy Secretary Michael Connor said. “We need to continue to develop collaborative strategies across each river basin to ensure that our nation’s water and power supplies, agricultural activities, ecosystems and other resources all have sustainable paths forward.”
The report fulfills continuing requirements established by the SECURE Water Act of 2009 that calls for an update to the study every half decade.
The study, which updates one released in 2011, projects:
- A temperature increase of 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st Century;
- Precipitation increases over the northwestern and north-central parts of the western U.S.;
- Precipitation decreases over the southwestern and south-central areas;
- A decrease for almost all April 1 snowpack, which is a standard benchmark measurement used to project river basin runoff; and
- A 7% to 27% decrease in April to July stream flow in several basins, including the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin.
The document contains more specific findings and projections for the Southern California, Colorado, Klamath, Truckee, Columbia, Missouri, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Rio Grande river basins.
“Reclamation, its customers and stakeholders have adapted to various climate conditions for more than 100 years,” USBR Commissioner Estevan Lopez said. “Now changing climate is creating a greater challenge, but through collaboration and cooperation, we will work to ensure a sustainable and secure water supply now and into the future.”
Reclamation is the largest supplier of hydroelectric power in the western U.S. and supplies 3.5 million households with power generated by 53 hydroelectric plants.
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