Report warns of US water woes

A new report published by the US' Department of the Interior warns of major water woes in the west if climate change projections occur.

Secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, released his report to Congress last week which assesses how climate change could impact on water operations in the western United States – an area already facing water shortages.

“Water is the lifeblood of our communities,” said secretary Salazar, “and small changes in water supplies or the timing of precipitation can have a big impact on all of us.

“This report provides the foundation for understanding the long-term impacts of climate change on western water supplies and will help us identify and implement appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies for sustainable water resource management.”

The report, prepared by the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, notes that an increase in temperature of up to seven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century could have dire consequences for some of the fastest growing areas of the US.

Changes in temperature and precipitation would likely alter the timing and quantity of water flows in all western river basins, leaving eight States – including giants California and Texas – as well as parts of Mexico, in short supply.

Flooding would increase during winter owing to an earlier snowmelt which in turn, would lead to water shortages in the summer.

Even the major river basins of the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin could decline by up to 14 per cent by 2050, the report concludes.

“Impacts to water are on the leading edge of global climate change, and these changes pose a significant challenge and risk to adequate water supplies,” added reclamation commissioner, Mike Connor.

Reclamation – which is in fact the US’ largest water wholesaler – is already working with stakeholders across the western States to achieve a sustainable water strategy to meet the nation’s water needs.

Connor added at a news conference last week that this new report ‘affirms the urgency of the planning we are engaged in’.

Sam Plester

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