What a backup reservoir looks like during a drought

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Click to enlarge — New Mexico Sailing Club’s marina at Heron Lake

The San Juan-Chama Project, which delivers water from the mountains of southwest Colorado to central New Mexico, had the first shortfall this year in its four-decade history after three consecutive years of bad snowpack.

Water managers say the impact on Rio Grande Valley water operations was small, but the implications are significant – a demonstration that a supply once seen as dependable backup to a faltering Rio Grande might not be as reliable as once thought. Albuquerque and Santa Fe pull San-Juan Chama water from the Rio Grande for their local water supplies…

The first-ever shortfall comes just a year after a federal study warned that climate change would mean less reliable supplies from the project as temperatures warm during the 21st century…

Scientists are not ready to blame the shortfall on climate change, but they point out that the pattern seen in recent years is consistent with last year’s U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study of the risks to the San Juan-Chama Project posed by climate change…

Studies using tree rings to estimate long-term water supplies showed there were risks of shortfalls even without climate change, said hydrologist Dagmar Llewellyn, the study’s lead author.

“It isn’t just climate change,” she said in an interview.

But the warmer temperatures in recent decades can add to problems caused by a lack of winter snow, Llewellyn said. With a longer growing season and greater evaporation, less of the rain and snow that does fall makes it into the region’s rivers.

“The difference is it’s hotter,” she said. “For the same precipitation, you’re going to have less water…”

Llewellyn’s study concluded that, by the 2020s, the previously unheard of possibility of a San Juan-Chama Project shortfall could happen on average once every six years.

But, hey – gubernatorial elections are every four years. Republicans should be able to lie their way into continuing control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion. Between Koch Bros/Oil Patch Boys money and Democrats whose primary concern is which wardheeler’s kid is next in line to run for office – no problemo.

3 thoughts on “What a backup reservoir looks like during a drought

  1. 4Warning says:

    “As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.
    ☞ Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing.☜ California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.”
    Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-famiglietti-drought-california-20150313-story.html

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