Some of you may have noticed those few warm days in March this year, and perhaps one or two even as early as February! Where I’m from, Alabama, it’s easily 85 degrees by March, but I’m told that up here, it was unusually warm. People have posted several articles about climate change and environmental impact, and I thought this was an interesting follow-up and relation. This article from National Geographic talks about some of the impacts of this warmer than normal weather. As illustrated in the above picture, water levels are dropping in large amounts, especially in Western states.
On April 10th, 61% of the lower 48 states in America were listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor to be in abnormally dry or drought conditions. 61%, in April! That’s pretty early, and points to rough next few summer months. And the Southwest, which largely relies on ice melt into the Colorado River Basin from the Rocky Mountains and previous years’ melt stored in the Lake Powell and Lake Mead Reservoirs for its water supply, is poised for a dry, hot summer, because those areas received less than 70 percent of the average snowfall according to the USDA National Water & Climate Center.
These reservoirs are already at just 64% capacity, after a decade long drought from 2000-2010, with the upcoming drought looking worse. Climate change poses a threat of increased drought in a region with a long climatological record of natural drought. According to the article,”In a 2010 report on the county-level effects of climate change on U.S. water supplies, an analysis by consulting firm Tetra Tech and NRDC projected that by 2050, 27 out of 64 counties in Colorado will face high or extreme risks of water shortages, as well as 13 out of 29 in Utah, 19 out of 33 in New Mexico, 36 out of 58 in California, and a startling 13 out of 15 in Arizona.”
These numbers are frightening, as with all of these droughts comes wildfires. In May 1996, the Buffalo Creek fire burned 11,900 acres within the watershed of the South Platte River, a major source of Denver’s municipal water. Two months later, heavy rains washed tons of sediment into the Strontia Springs Reservoir, which holds approximately 80 percent of Denver’s water supply. In one day, the reservoir lost 30 years of its 50-year lifespan. And, most people should remember the March 26 fire in the Lower North Fork region of southeast Colorado killed three people, destroyed 27 homes, and blazed through 4,000 acres. And, with population numbers increasingly rapidly each year, this water shortage can only mean trouble for the future.
If these rapidly depleting water supplies are not addressed and replenished soon, it could have devastating effects on areas of the United States. Do you guys think that the United States local and federal governments should do more to solve these issues? Should more focus be placed on these impending problems?