Report: Climate change to reduce river flows

Climate change may result in about a 9 percent drop in average Colorado River flows over the next half-century, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says in a new report.

Drought frequency and duration are expected to increase under a climate-change model, one of four different water supply scenarios used by the agency in an ongoing study of supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin.

The report says projected changes in the basin include continued warming in the basin, along with snowpack decreases as more precipitation falls as rain.

“Droughts lasting five or more years are projected to occur 40 percent of the time over the next 50 years” under the climate change assumption, the report says.

The interim report is the first in a series the bureau plans to release as the study continues.

“Concerns regarding the reliability of the Colorado River system to meet the future needs of Basin resources in the 21st century are heightened, given the likelihood of increasing demand for water throughout the Basin, coupled with projections of reduced supply due to climate change,” it says.

The study will explore solutions that could include cloud seeding, water conservation, changes in reservoir operations, desalinization, and water supply augmentation, the Colorado Water Conservation Board said in a news release.

The Environmental Defense Fund, a conservation group, praised the report but said future reports should look at how to sustain healthy river flows and recreation and tourism industries.


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