Warming temperatures will likely lead to reduced flows from precipitation
A new study published this week in the American Geophysical Union journal Water Resources Research looks at runoff efficiency in the Colorado River. Researchers Connie Woodhouse and Gregory Pederson investigated the runoff efficiency in the upper Colorado River basin over the past 400 years. The research was funded by the Southwest CSC.
According to the article's abstract, the researchers found that "the 20th century has experienced twice as many high flow years with negative runoff efficiency, likely due to warm temperatures. These results suggest warming temperatures will continue to reduce runoff efficiency in wet or dry years, and that future flows will be less than anticipated from precipitation due to warming temperatures."
The study sheds light on future availability of water resources which depend on the Colorado River Basin. According to the USGS, "the river supplies water to more than 30 million people, irrigates nearly 4 million acres of cropland in the U.S. and Mexico, and supplies hydropower plants that generate more than 10 billion kilowatt-hours annually." It also provides wildlife habitat, ecosystems, and recreation in several states. Investigating future water availability in the Colorado River Basin is considered a top priority by the USGS.