Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Modeling climate impacts on California's Central Valley's water

US Geological Survey: Scientists have developed a new method to help resource managers plan for possible changes in water supplies due to climate change, and have applied the technology to forecasting water supplies in California's Central Valley. Although it is not possible to provide exact forecasts of future climatic conditions, the new computer model projects that declines in precipitation, increases in temperatures, more frequent and longer droughts, and increased urban water demand, could result in significant reductions in streamflows. This would reduce the water available for animal and plant habitats, and for agricultural irrigation, and could result in a fundamental shift to dependence on groundwater.

"Climate-change-induced aridity will prompt countless seemingly independent decisions in California's fields, factories, and homes to adjust sources of water supply that summed together can have a major impact on the state's environment, economy, and infrastructure," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "The value of this new model is that it provides far-sighted managers and alert stakeholders with a view to that future such that negative impacts can be anticipated and mitigated before they become problems."

"This transition to using more groundwater may cause additional land subsidence that could be hazardous to agriculture, environmental habitat, and canal systems, as well as transportation and urban infrastructure, and could ultimately require water use limitations," said U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and lead author, Randall Hanson.

... The Central Valley study demonstrates that the new method, coupling computer models of supply-and-demand-driven groundwater and surface-water systems, with global climate models, can show potential vulnerabilities in hydrologic systems and potential trends due to changes in climate....

California's San Joaquin Valley and Central Valley, shot by Amadscientist, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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