Global warming will worsen drought and reduce flows on the Colorado River, a key water source for Southern California and six other Western states, according to a report released Wednesday.
The study, prepared by a National Research Council committee, paints a sobering picture of the future as the water needs of a rapidly expanding population test the limits of a river system further strained by the effects of climate change.
"The basin is going to face increasingly costly, controversial and unavoidable trade-off choices," said Ernest Smerdon, who chaired the panel of academicians and scientists who wrote the report. "Increasing demands are impeding the region's ability to cope with droughts and water shortages."
OK, so we can't get water from the Colorado River. So what's the big deal? Apparently, the big deal is that about 30% of the water deliveries to the Metropolitan Water District cam from the Colorado River. And oh yes, 25% of our OVERALL water needs are fulfilled by the Colorado River alone. So yes, this is a HUGE DEAL!
So now, what can we expect?
The report acknowledges some uncertainty over whether climate change will alter the amount of precipitation in the basin. Even if it doesn't, Smerdon added, "the preponderance of scientific evidence suggests that warmer temperatures will reduce Colorado River stream flow and water supplies."
That is because the snowpack that feeds the Colorado will shrink as the climate grows hotter. More precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow, and the snowpack will melt earlier, diminishing late spring runoff.
As the mercury rises, water demands will also increase. There will be more evaporation from croplands and reservoirs, and wild land vegetation will suck more moisture from the soil, reducing runoff.
"I think a reasonably savvy person would have to say you're going to see less water in that river," said Brad Udall, director of Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado, who was not a member of the report committee. "The real question is how much less. Is it 5% less or is it 40% less, and by when?"
So what can we do about this? What can we do to secure water for the future? Well, for one we should stop USING SO DAMN MUCH! We shouldn't water our lawns more than we have to, and we shouldn't be filling our pools with more water than we have to. That would probably be a good start.
Oh, and here's another suggestion: DO SOMETHING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE! Seriously now, we all that it's happening. Now how about developing some solutions to stop this from becoming a major catastrophe...
And sucking up all our water!
And finally, perhaps the rest of Southern California should pay attention to what we are doing in Orange County:
The Groundwater Replenishment System will provide a high quality, reliable water supply for Orange County's growing population. The system, which is scheduled to go on line in 2007, will divert highly treated sewer water currently discharged into the ocean, and treat it through advanced techniques, including microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection and hydrogen peroxide. The resulting water will be so pure, it will actually improve the overall quality of the groundwater basin by lowering the mineral content.
Yes, you heard me right: Let's reuse all that damn sewer water that we create! This has been proven to be an effective method to provide a safe, clean, and reliable water supply for Orange County, and I am sure that this can do the same for the rest of this arid region. And after all, doesn't it feel good to recycle?
So perhaps if we become a little more water-wise, and if we put a whole lot more of our ingenuity to work, we can prevent this water crisis from becoming any worse.