How will the West solve a water crisis if climate change

    • 184 posts
    July 12, 2021 11:48 PM EDT

    How will the West solve a water crisis if climate change continues to get worse?

    Megadrought and climate change is making water even more scarce in the West.

    Imagine a world where water is scarce in the West -- or at least stretches of the increasingly hot and dry landscape.

    A decades-long megadrought spurred by climate change, which has led to alarmingly low reservoir levels in the region, nearing or at records in some cases, add urgency to considering this consideration.

    The West has more hydrologic variability -- more flood years and drought years per average year -- than any other part of the country, Jay Lund, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis, and the head of the school's Center for Watershed Sciences told ABC News. pgslot

    But a study published in Science Magazine in 2020 warned that the West is exiting an unusually wet time in its history and heading toward an unusually dry time that could last years -- even centuries.

    Some 42% of California's population is now under a drought emergency -- every part of the state except Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday. And if some of the most prominent reservoirs in the West are any indication, residents may be in trouble. Last month, water levels in Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the country, hit historic lows -- an alarming notion considering the West is largely dependent on surface water.

    Neighboring Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the U.S., is seeing similar patterns. Lake Mead and Lake Powell will likely never refill to previously normal levels, John Berggren, a water policy analyst with conservation organization Western Resource Advocates, told ABC News.

    "Climate change is definitely challenging the system," Berggren said. Population growth is straining the system as well, as increasing amounts of water get diverted to more households.

    If the predictions come to fruition, and the recent warm, dry trends persist in coming years, how will the West solve its water crisis?

    For years, states and municipalities are already urging residents, and in some cases enacting laws, to protect the water supply. Some regions on the coast, such as Santa Barbara, California, are installing desalination plants, and other inland areas, such as the state of Arizona, are monitoring ground water supplies as major reservoirs and the Colorado River continue to see the water levels dip.

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