Feds: Climate change to impact Western water trends

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Climate change will hasten existing water supply concerns in the Western United States, the Interior Department concluded in a report released Tuesday.

A warming climate is excepted to bring higher temperatures and changes to precipitation, snowpack and water flow throughout the West, the report found. Officials said the threat highlights the need for “collaborative strategies acres each river basin” in the west to protect water supplies there. 

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“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,” Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor said in a statement.

Climate change’s impact on water will vary across regions, the report predicts. Southern California, for example, will see increased water demand and heighten the need for imported or recycled water. Reduced snowpacks in the Colorado River Basin and points south will mean a smaller supply of water for irrigation and hydropower operations.  

Snowpacks in the west are important to dry-season water supplies. The diminishing snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, for example, is seen as one of the causes of the drought currently impacting California. 

On the other hand, the report predicted climate change will lead to higher snowpacks and more precipitation in northern regions. Officials at the Bureau of Reclamation said climate change stands to change the way governments manage the water supply across the region.

“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,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said.