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Global Warming & Water Problems In The West

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 750 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... WARMING STUDY INDICATES WATER PROBLEMS IN THE WEST
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      DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory / EurekAlert!
      November 21, 2002

      Contact: Geoff Harvey
      DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

      Accelerated Climate Prediction Initiative


      "Water may be the resource that defines the limits of sustainable
      development," states a 2001 United Nations Population Fund report, which
      noted that water use has grown six-fold over the past 70 years.

      Nowhere is that more true than in the western United States, where existing
      water resources already are stretched to their limits. There is little or no
      leeway for changes in current water allocations. But there is every reason
      to expect that climate change, such as that associated with greenhouse
      warming, could dramatically alter the availability of water in the West. In
      the most rigorous study to date of potential greenhouse impacts, leading
      scientists detail how major water problems could evolve over the next 50
      years throughout the West as a result of climate change already underway.

      Many people have heard about the impacts of global warming, but the general
      public typically doesn't grasp the ramifications of such changes. A degree
      or so change in global mean temperature seems harmless enough. What most
      people do not know is that the regional or local climate changes associated
      with global warming will be far more significant than apparently small
      average changes might imply.

      New simulations by a group of leading global warming and climate change
      researchers suggest the effects of rising temperatures will exacerbate
      problems we are beginning to see. In the West, the effects of global warming
      already have begun to emerge in earlier melting of mountain snow packs and
      spring flooding dates. Scientific studies show that these, and other
      expected climate changes, could have a devastating impact on water resources
      in some parts of the West over the next half century.

      For instance:

      - In the Columbia River System of Washington State, residents and
      industries likely will be faced with the choice of water for summer and fall
      hydroelectric power or spring and summer releases for salmon runs, but not
      both. Accelerated Climate Prediction Initiative research, or ACPI, shows
      that with climate change, the river cannot be managed to accommodate both.
      In fact, the window for successful salmon reproduction in the Pacific
      Northwest may become so compressed by climate change that some species could
      cease to exist regardless of any current or future water policies.

      - The Colorado River Reservoir System will not be able to meet all of the
      demands placed on it -- including water supply for Southern California and
      the inland Southwest -- because reservoir levels will be reduced by more
      than one-third and releases by as much as 17 percent. The greatest effects
      will be on lower Colorado River Basin states. All users of Colorado River
      hydroelectric power will be affected by lower reservoir levels and flows,
      which will result in reductions in hydropower generation by as much as 40

      - In the Central Valley of California, it will be impossible to meet
      current water system performance levels so that impacts will be felt in
      reduced reliability of water supply deliveries, hydropower production and
      instream flows. With less fresh water available, the Sacramento Delta could
      experience a dramatic increase in salinity and subsequent ecosystem

      "Population and economic growth already are placing severe pressure on water
      resources in the West. Climate change is one more very important factor that
      has to be taken into account when thinking about the future," said Bill
      Pennell, director of the Atmospheric Science and Global Change Division at
      Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

      "It also is important to point out," said Dennis Lettenmaier, Professor of
      Civil Engineering at the University of Washington, "that these predictions
      are based on one of the most conservative climate models. Other models show
      a much larger warming effect. However, even this conservative model
      indicates substantial changes. For example, by mid-century the yearly
      average snow pack in the Washington and Oregon Cascades may be reduced on
      the order of 50 percent and because most of our water storage is in this
      snow pack, such a reduction will result in big changes in flows and water
      temperatures in Cascade rivers and streams."


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