Climate change is shrinking the West’s water supply — @HighCountryNews

The Colorado River and other crucial sources of water in the West are declining, thanks to climate change.
brewbooks/CC Flickr

Here’s a report from Emily Benson writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Picture a snowflake drifting down from a frigid February sky in western Colorado and settling high in the Rocky Mountains. By mid-April, the alpine snowpack is likely at its peak. Warming temperatures in May or June will then melt the snow, sending droplets rushing down a mountain stream or seeping into the soil to replenish an aquifer.

The West’s water supply depends on each of these interconnected sources: the frozen reservoir of snow atop mountain peaks, mighty rivers like the Colorado and groundwater reserves deep below the earth’s surface. But the snowpack is becoming less reliable, one of the region’s most important rivers is diminishing and in many places the groundwater level has dropped. Three recent studies illuminate the magnitude of these declines, the role climate change has played and the outlook for the future.

All three studies point to the influence of a warming climate. “Climate change is real, it’s here now, it’s serious and it’s impacting our water supplies in a way that will affect all of us,” says Bradley Udall, a water and climate researcher at Colorado State University. The situation is dire, he says, but reining in greenhouse gas emissions now could help keep the mountains covered with snow and the rivers and aquifers wet.

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