Water and Climate in the Western United States

Water and Climate in the Western United States

Water and Climate in the Western United States

Water and Climate in the Western United States

Synopsis

Although developed intensively as a resource for more than a century, the use and management of water in the Western United States are far from being settled matters. With papers from researches and managers representing the multiple viewpoints of climate forecasting, water management, water law, and water allocation, 'Water and Climate in the Western United States' demonstrates that new technologies and a new scientific understanding of the water cycle are emerging. This new insight is emerging at a time when demands for water are expanding and changing as traditional policies and institutions are coming under severe criticism for their inadequacy. The degree to which vagaries of climate can be anticipated and countered -- through better predictions, better supervision, and reformed legal and management systems for allocating water -- are explored thoroughly by the contributors in the context of a long-term climate record and changes in water use. The papers in this volume highlight both the opportunity and necessity for change in human management of water, the West's most limited resource. Unique in its full, integrated coverage, the book will appeal to academics and policymakers interested in water supply and management questions as well as climate prediction.

Excerpt

Through an accident of nature, this book goes to press as much of the western United States experiences its most severe one-year drought in a number of decades. Many of the points discussed in hypothetical terms in this volume are in fact now well illustrated in Colorado and other states. Supply is inadequate to meet demand, and mechanisms for contingency allocation to uses of highest priority are clumsy at best. Conservation measures in cities have brought the urban population into a concern that in milder droughts primarily affects agriculture. Ancillary effects are numerous. Grass hay, for example, which sold in 2001 for about $3.50 per bale, was selling for $10 per bale as of July 2002. Forced sale of livestock is common because hay is either unavailable or overly expensive. Wildfire is rampant in dry timber, and fires once extinguished threaten mudflows and water-quality problems. Fish mortality has occurred in both reservoirs and flowing water, where warming caused by low flows is inconsistent with the welfare of salmonids. Thus, the chapters of this book dealing with interactions between climate variability and the management and consumption of water for human purposes are now under much more intense consideration than they were just a year ago.

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