Containing the headwaters of four major U.S. river systems, Colorado seemingly has plentiful water resources. However, due to interstate compacts and agreements, the state must allow much of this water to leave its borders. As increasing temperatures challenge traditional notions of water management and availability in the West and municipal demand continues to grow as populations swell, conflicts over water resources will intensify. Consequently, the potential economic impacts to the state from climate change are significant. In 2007, winter recreation alone contributed nearly $2 billion to the Colorado economy.1 Warmer temperatures could lead to less snow and a shortening of the ski season. In fact, a 2006 study projected a loss of 43 to 82 percent in April snowpack for Colorado counties with ski resorts by the end of the 21st century.2 Dwindling water resources and higher temperatures as a result of climate change could also impair the state’s $5.5 billion agricultural industry.3 To lessen these impacts, Colorado should continue to fund research on the impacts of climate change on water resources and work to incorporate climate change considerations into all aspects of water resources planning—both statewide and locally.
More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
NRDC analysts looked at water-supply planning, as well as the extent to which states were trying to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution linked to global warming. “While Colorado has done more than many states, it should engage in more robust planning and implementation to prepare for climate change,” the NRDC report said. The primary challenges in Colorado are expected to be shifts in water supply, extreme storms, increased flooding and changes to aquatic life…
Colorado’s ranking “seems about right,” said Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, a state drought and climate change specialist in the Department of Natural Resources. “We definitely have done more within the Interior West on the planning side, especially with regard to water.”
More coverage from Brandon Loomis writing for The Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:
The Natural Resources Defense Council released a report Thursday that groups the states in four categories for their efforts to prepare and prevent calamity. The council’s “Ready or Not” report puts Utah’s efforts in the lowest tier, partly because it found state agencies ignore the threat while legislators have passed resolutions downplaying the phenomenon.
“It seems like the [Utah] state water plan hasn’t really taken a look at what climate change will do to water supply and hydrology in the state,” NRDC water policy analyst Ben Chou said in a telephone news conference.
Numerous studies have predicted less supply for the Great Basin and Colorado River watersheds as snowfall turns to rain and temperatures increase evaporation. Timing of precipitation also may shift, requiring greater storage capacity to maintain irrigation water when it is needed.
NRDC says states facing potential shortages should incorporate them into their projections, while areas projected to get more water in fiercer storms should plan for better flood control. Some states, such as California and New York, are ahead in planning, according to the report. Utah is behind most, in the group’s reckoning, and behind all states that share the Colorado River.
More coverage from Michelle Mehta writing for Switchboard, the NRDC staff blog. From the post:
California has already experienced the kinds of climate change-related impacts projected only to get worse. For instance, due to “stubbornly dry conditions” the Department of Water Resources recently reduced its estimate of the amount of water the State Water Project will deliver in 2012, from 60 percent to 50 percent of the requested amount of slightly more than 4 million acre-feet. Record-setting heat in 2010 caused nearly 40,000 Los Angeles homes and residences to lose electricity and prompted adjustments to train speeds and schedules.
Fortunately, leaders across this state have recognized these risks and are acting to reduce statewide greenhouse gas pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change. As detailed in a new NRDC report released today, California is one of just nine states in the U.S. to develop a comprehensive climate change preparedness plan, making it one of the most engaged states compared to the rest of the nation. And even among this elite group, our state stands out. Our state has established statewide greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets and is using a cap-and-trade regulation to limit greenhouse gas pollution from major sources.