Thursday, January 31, 2008

Water, Water Nowhere

When I talk about the coming additional costs to state and local govs from the transitional expenses related to global warming and its scary cousins, peak oil and declining water supplies, and the impact of those costs on all current programs and spending, like corrections sentencing, I usually focus on the weather elements. But here's a great story on what I'm talking about from the H2O side, in case you don't believe me:

Human activity such as driving and powering air conditioners is responsible for up to 60 percent of changes contributing to dwindling water supplies in the arid and growing West, a new study finds.

Those changes are likely to accelerate, says the study published Thursday in Science magazine, portending "a coming crisis in water supply for the western United States."

The study is likely to add to urgent calls for action already coming from Western states competing for the precious resource to irrigate farms and quench the thirst of growing populations. Devastating wildfires, avalanches and drought have also underscored the need.

Researchers led by climate expert Tim P. Barnett at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, studied climate changes in the West between 1950-1999. They noted that winter precipitation falls increasingly as rain rather than snow, snow melts faster, river flows decrease in summer months, and overall warming is exacerbating dry summer conditions.
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"The picture painted is quite grim so it's time to collectively sit down and get our act together," Barnett added, suggesting the need for conservation, more water storage, and a slowdown on development in the desert Southwest.

"The building is just going crazy, so it would be a pretty good idea to put a curb on that unless they can figure out how to get more water," he said.

The study also included researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of Washington, Seattle, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan.

"Our results are not good news for those living in the western United States," they conclude. The research "foretells of water shortages, lack of storage capability to meet seasonally changing river flow, transfers of water from agricultural to urban uses and other critical impacts."

And, since NM's governor has already been asking why those Great Lakes shouldn't be funneled southwest, this isn't just a Western problem. Welcome to your 21st Century, folks.