The American West and Southwest are headed for serious water shortages in the coming decades, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Wednesday.
The 10 Western states that depend on the Colorado River and Rio Grande basins will see acute water shortages in the coming years due to the combination of reduced precipitation as a result of climate change and increased demand, Salazar said, speaking to reporters at a breakfast held by the Christian Science Monitor.
His projections are in keeping with several recent studies from the National Academies of Science, which show that climate change will lead to higher temperatures and increased drought throughout the Southwest, and project severe water shortages over the next century.
“Climate change doesn’t seem to get any traction in Washington. But if you talk to water managers on the Colorado River, many are Republican, many are Democrat, and they know what they will have to do,” Salazar said. “We should be concerned about water shortages. The answer to the water shortages is how we manage a finite water supply.”
Salazar said a major challenge in the coming years will be adapting water-resource planning and management programs in order to adapt to the shortages.
He noted that similar adaptations to water management will likely be necessary in the Northeast, where studies show that climate change is likely to lead to increased precipitation, earlier snowmelt, and increased flooding.
This article appears in the October 5, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.