Interior Releases Report Highlighting Impacts of Climate Change to Western Water

Escalation of Western Water Wars Loom

The finite availability of western water is part of the reason Ralph Maughan previously posed the question : Will the resource sucking “sin city” be reclaimed by the desert ?  Perhaps eventually, but in the meantime – despite setbacks, the Southern Nevada Water Authority keeps stretching its tentacles in a continuing effort to draw-down surrounding water resources:

Hundreds Protest Las Vegas Water GrabGreat Basin Water Network Press Release

Nevadans and Utahns made it clear once again that Las Vegas won’t take water from rural Nevada without a fight.

This at a time when the Interior Department has announced a report commissioned by the Bureau of Reclamation – which has presumably brushed up on its 9th grade math – highlighting the impacts of climate change to western water resources – including a projection of an 8 to 20 percent decrease in average annual stream flow in several river basins, including the Colorado, the Rio Grande, and the San Joaquin.

Interior Releases Report Highlighting Impacts of Climate Change to Western Water ResourcesInterior Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released a report that assesses climate change risks and how these risks could impact water operations, hydropower, flood control, and fish and wildlife in the western United States. The report to Congress, prepared by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, represents the first consistent and coordinated assessment of risks to future water supplies across eight major Reclamation river basins, including the Colorado, Rio Grande and Missouri river basins.




  1. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    I ‘m looking this over. So far , not too impressed . Some pretty broad unfocussed assumptions framing this study.
    I did spark on the lead-in terminology of the ‘West-wide climate risk assessment ‘ sub-report that has been ” Bias Corrected and Spatially Downscaled”.

    However , not all climate change is created equal. As seen from northwest Wyoming at the headwaters of the Great Western Rivers splaying off the Continental Divide—the Snake- Columbia, Missouri-Yellowstone, and Green-Colorado— late April snowpacks and expected runoff as magnanimous. I don’t recall ever seeing this much snowpack heading into early May in many a year. The snow-water equivalent being reported at SNO-TEL telemetry stations is at or above 150 percent of 30-year normal in most of the higher sites—on BOTH sides of the Continental Divide, which is unusual.

    In fact, while the general description of my region’s climate in the past 15 years or so has been termed ” drought” or Very Dry as the norm, and climate change is obviously occurring, it has an odd aspect. The Springs have been colder longer and wetter than before, coming off drier milder winters and leading to hotter drier summers and delayed autumns. The storm patterns have been dumping more late winter and spring moisture and it’s stayed colder through May and even June, delaying vegetation growth in most recent years. Satellite imagery confirms this.

    The end product is more water in the headwaters basins around Yellowstone , not less.

    That is at odds with the findings of this BuRec long term outlook.

    We’ll see. But I’ll say it again: Not all climate change is created equal. Global Weirding would be the better term for it …

    So far, I like what it’s doing in my backyard, the Absaroka Range.

  2. Phil Avatar

    What I get angry about are the people who say global warming is a flaud and is not realistic. It is ok to believe that global warming is just a myth, but these individuals are the ones who say they will act when the severity of the impact has come. By than it would be to late IMO. If there is no clear cut proof of its reality or lack there of, something should at least be done to secure it will not have a major impact. When I use to live in an apartment complex we had a few individuals who constantly sped up and down the complex’s street going 30+ over the speed limit of 15 mph. A number of residents called these individuals in but nothing could be done even though the individuals were pointed out to the officers. I know you cannot arrest or ticket them, but a talk would have helped a bit. What one of my neighbors said was that the cops would not do anything about it unless the individuals caused an accident and/or killed someone. What would be the purpose if harm is already done?

  3. WM Avatar

    The thing about the Bureau of Reclamation is that it likes “projects.” It is the very essence of Reclamation’s existence – water storage and delivery systems, with the added feature of hydro power. Watch as the existing dams get retro-fitted for hydro power operations under different operating scenarios to get more power with lower reservoir levels to coincide with downstream water deliveries for muni and ag demands.

    I have not read the report yet, but with the historical context of this federal agency, don’t expect any support for breaching dams anywhere soon. They will be pushing for more storage and hardware. Acknowledgement of climate change is yet one more arrow in their quiver.

    Want water all year long, and available when you realllllly neeeeeed it to secure the future of the parched but growing West? Solution: more dams, and well throw in a little water “conservation” to make it look good.

    1. WM Avatar

      …and, you can bet they will make a case for more water storage up high and at lower elevations for flood control, as more snow (yes more snow) falls in the high country, but runs off faster with warmer temperatures.

      This recent spate of more snow high in the mountains, and more violent and unpredictable storms are some of the features predicted in the global warming scenarios. It will be the effects of rapid runoff which will create even more problems down stream. The answer from BR’s perspective will be flood control storage, and the Army Corps of Engineers will be in project heaven too.

    2. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      “This recent spate of more snow high in the mountains, and more violent and unpredictable storms are some of the features predicted in the global warming scenarios.”

      Ergo the violent tornados so far this year, and the ones that scoured the country last year.

    3. Brian Ertz Avatar

      the problem is dams are a 1 or 2 generation “solution” to the problems mentioned. rapid runoff = rapid delivery of sediment. it’ll be interesting …

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Brian Ertz