A report by two climate scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego warns that the effects of climate change could lead to shortfalls in targeted water supply for homes serviced by the Colorado River; an area that has never before suffered a shortage.
The area, made up of vast areas of farmland and millions of domestic properties is estimated to be affected by shortages up to 90% of the time by 2050. Even without the expected effects of climate change, however, shortages would still be expected due to the targets being based on water levels of the Colorado River during the 20th century, which analysis of tree rings has shown to be one of the wettest centuries of the last 1200 years.
The report highlights that action needs to be taken to ensure security of water supplies for areas supplied by the river. Serious measures need to be taken to reduce emissions and limit the effects of climate change while we still can. The authors of the report, Tim Barnet and David Pierce, concluded that even if the most optimistic forecasts were correct, and our carbon emitting habits have a limited effect on climate change, there could still be shortages in water supply equivalent to the amount needed to service 800,000 homes by 2025. Even more concerning, is that this figure would be expected to double by the end of the century. Tim Barnett commented,
“People have talked for at least 30 years about the Colorado being oversubscribed but no one ever put a date on it or an amount. That’s what we’ve done. Without numbers like this, it’s pretty hard for resource managers to know what to do.”
However it may not be all doom and gloom. David Pierce went on to say that if people could learn to curb their reliance on water and reduce the amount they use, the water supply from the Colorado River would be under less of a threat:
“If we could do that, the system could stay sustainable further into the future than we estimate currently, even if the climate changes.”