Lack of snowpack leaves the West hung out to dry

Lack of snowpack leaves the West hung out to dry

SOURCE: Grist DATE: March 13, 2018 SNIP: The lack of snow across the West this winter points to a parched summer ahead. In California, Colorado, and across the Southwest, the snowfall has ranked among the lowest on record. The last four months have also been among the warmest throughout most of the region, according to a report out last week. Parts of eight states already are already under “extreme” drought conditions. “I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that this winter is the stuff of nightmares for water managers in the Colorado River watershed,” says Luke Runyon, a Colorado-based public radio reporter focusing on western water. Some 40 million people in seven states depend on water from the Colorado River. In the river’s main storage spot, Lake Mead just south of Las Vegas, Nevada, water levels are on track to fall so low that they would trigger the first-ever official shortfall late next year, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Water rationing would be the next step. Warmer, drier winters like this one are exactly what you’d expect with climate change. A new study published earlier this month showed that over the past 100 years, more than 90 percent of snow monitoring sites throughout the West have seen a decline in snowpack. In total, that’s a loss of summertime water storage equivalent to Lake Mead. “It is a bigger decline than we had expected,” said Philip Mote, a climate scientist at Oregon State University and lead author on the study, in a statement. “In many lower-elevation sites, what used to fall as snow is now...
Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern

Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern

SOURCE: New York Times and LA Times DATE: January 18, 2018 SNIP: Nigeria. Syria. Somalia. And now Iran. In each country, in different ways, a water crisis has triggered some combination of civil unrest, mass migration, insurgency or even full-scale war. In the era of climate change, their experiences hold lessons for a great many other countries. The World Resources Institute warned this month of the rise of water stress globally, “with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040.” Iran is the latest example of a country where a water crisis, long in the making, has fed popular discontent. That is particularly true in small towns and cities in what is already one of the most parched regions of the world. Climate change is projected to make Iran hotter and drier. A former Iranian agriculture minister, Issa Kalantari, once famously said that water scarcity, if left unchecked, would make Iran so harsh that 50 million Iranians would leave the country altogether. Water alone doesn’t explain the outbreak of protests that began in early January and spread swiftly across the country. But as David Michel, an analyst at the Stimson Center put it, the lack of water — whether it’s dry taps in the city, or dry wells in the countryside, or dust storms rising from a shrinking Lake Urmia (pictured) — is one of the most common, most visible markers of the government’s failure to deliver basic services. “Water is not going to bring down the government,” he said. “But it’s a component — in some towns, a significant component — of grievances and...
Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California

Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times DATE: December 5, 2017 SNIP: California could be hit with significantly more dangerous and more frequent droughts in the near future as changes in weather patterns triggered by global warming block rainfall from reaching the state, according to new research led by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Using complex new modeling, the scientists have found that rapidly melting Arctic sea ice now threatens to diminish precipitation over California by as much as 15% within 20 to 30 years. Such a change would have profound economic impacts in a state where the most recent drought drained several billion dollars out of the economy, severely stressed infrastructure and highlighted how even the state most proactively confronting global warming is not prepared for its fallout. “As we learn more about the subtleties in the dynamics of climate change, we are learning that certain climate change impacts, like California drought, may be far worse than we had previously thought,” [Michael] Mann [director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University] wrote. “It also means that, when it comes to water resource issues in California, the impacts of climate change may exceed our adaptive capacity. That leaves only mitigation — doing something about climate change — as a viable strategy moving...
Climate change: Jordan water crisis ‘to get worse’

Climate change: Jordan water crisis ‘to get worse’

SOURCE: Al Jazeera DATE: November 7, 2017 SNIP: Water shortages in Jordan are likely to get far worse over the coming years, according to a recent study by Stanford University. The researchers said that, in the absence of international climate policy action, the country could receive 30 percent less rainfall by 2100 and annual temperatures could increase by 4.5 Celsius. This would double the number and duration of droughts when compared with the 1981-2010 period, raising concerns in a country already dealing with water shortages. Currently, the reservoirs in Jordan are at a record low – only one-fifth full – and the vital winter rains are becoming increasingly erratic. There seems little respite for the country, which draws 160 percent more water from the ground than is replenished by...
Parched Cape runs out of time

Parched Cape runs out of time

SOURCE: Business Live, South Africa DATE: October 30, 2017 SNIP: [T]here is a growing likelihood of mass migration of people over a frighteningly short time as the Cape’s economy begins to fail. In the worst-case scenario, SA may be faced with millions of water refugees. And the people who are unable to migrate will face enormous difficulties just to gain access to drinking water, while the sewerage system collapses, disease breaks out and medical services fail. The Cape’s water crisis is a humanitarian disaster in the making from which the country certainly cannot...