IV Press Article 11-20-15 ### Colorado River Drought Seminar

Drought, climate change main topics during IV Water seminar

Posted: Friday, November 20, 2015 2:00 am

BY EDWIN DELGADO, Staff Writer |

Imperial Valley Water put together their first event on Thursday at Imperial Palms Resort at Barbara Worth in an effort to educate local farmer and the community on how climate will impact water availability for the region in the future.

The guest speakers on the seminar were climate research scientist and scholar of the Colorado State University Brad Udall and regents professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences of the University of Arizona Jonathan Overpeck.

Chairman of Imperial Water Jack Vessey said that he attended a the Colorado River symposium months ago where he listened to presentations by Udall and Overpeck and thought it was really important for him, his neighbors, friends, fellow water users to hear what they had to say.

“We were hoping to give the public a little more knowledge about what is happening in our world and the Western U.S.,” Vessey said. “As water users and landowners we need to understand what is happening and be able to understand that we have a precious resource to deal with, to manage and is our responsibility to use it reasonably and beneficially.”

Udall focused on the current drought that the entire Southwestern U.S. is experiencing, he made comparisons of the current drought to the drought from 1953-1967.

Among the emphasis of his presentation Udall said that the two Colorado River reservoirs Lake Mead and Lake Powell were at full capacity in the year 2000 and because of the drought both are now under 40 percent. He said that the current drought is the worst recorded and that it has caused a 19 percent decrease in the flow of the Colorado River.

Udall also said that the increase of temperatures is the main reason for the drought; he stated that the hotter temperatures create more water evaporation, more transpiration and larger snow-free periods.

To expand more of the subject Overpeck’s presentation dealt more with the rise in temperature and talked about different scenarios of what could happen.

He said that 2015 was the hottest year recorded and that scientists are certain that temperatures will continue to rise in the future. He also mentioned that there is a lot of uncertainty on other factors such as precipitation, but even though it may increase very slightly in the future it would not be anywhere close enough to offset the rising temperatures.

“The No. 1 thing I hope people take away from today is that climate change is real and what that means for people that live along the Colorado River basin,” Overpeck said. “I want people to understand that global warming equals water, and if we let global warming continue it means less water in the Colorado River — not just a little, but a lot less.”

During his presentation Overpeck mentioned that the flow of the Colorado River could decrease by 6 to 9 percent per every degree Celsius the average temperature rises.

He also talked about the possibility of the current drought to turn into a mega drought that could extend for a couple of decades. He said that in 12,000 years of climate history there have been four to five mega droughts and that the chances to get another one without taking into account the effects of climate change is about 8 percent and if the burning of fossil fuels continues that number could jump significantly.

“Based on what we know we are confident that river flows are going to go down.” Overpeck said. “We are also here to highlight that there are solutions. In this case we can adapt to less and less water or we can fight the cause of the problem which is the greenhouse gases emissions.”

In his point of view, renewables will have to play a significant role in reducing the amount of greenhouse gases and added that the Southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico have the sun and many other resources to fuel the renewable energy revolution.

Both Udall and Overpeck will be on a tour of the Imperial Valley soon to learn more about the local water use.

“What I want to do is talk to a diverse group of people here and understand their perspective on how they use water, how climate change matters to them,” Overpeck said. “What can scientists do to help them more, I’m also very interested in learning about the Imperial Valley and the Salton Sea. These are big issues for our country and the Southwest and build relationships, to provide more help to people here and possibly work together to find solutions.”

Photographer: Spencer Lowell