Climate change is likely to diminish already scarce water supplies in the Western United States, exacerbating problems for millions of water users in the West, according to a new government report.
A report released Monday by the Interior Department said annual flows in three prominent river basins “” the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin “” could decline by as much 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades. The three rivers provide water to eight states, from Wyoming to Texas and California, as well as to parts of Mexico.
The declining water supply comes as the West and Southwest, already among the fastest-growing parts of the country, continue to gain population.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called water the region’s “lifeblood” and said small changes in snowpack and rainfall levels could have a major effect on tens of millions of people.
The report will help officials understand the long-term effects of climate change on Western water supplies, Salazar said, and will be the foundation for efforts to develop strategies for sustainable water resource management.
The broad-brush conclusion of a new federal report on the future impact of climate change on water in the West is a bit familiar. Throughout the West, there will be less snow, and what snow there is will melt faster. The dry Southwest is going to get drier, and the wet Northwest wetter, as a diagram in the report (above) shows.
The 122-page report includes original research “” “including state-of-the-art climate modeling,” as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said during a conference call on Monday “” but also harks back to peer-reviewed scientific literature on seven river basins: the Columbia, the Klamath, the Sacramento-San Joaquin, the Colorado, the Missouri, the Truckee and the Rio Grande.
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With gas up 26 percent this year to an average $3.88 a gallon, seven in 10 Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll report financial hardship as a result, six in 10 say they’ve cut back on driving — and, among those hardest hit, Obama’s ratings are suffering.
This poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds the president’s job approval rating 13 points lower among people who say the price of gas is causing them hardship. Forty-three percent of them approve of the president, vs. 56 percent of those who report no hardship. And among the four in 10 feeling “serious” hardship, just 39 percent approve of Obama’s work in office.
In re-election terms, 53 percent of those who are feeling serious hardship as a result of gas prices say they definitely will not vote for Obama in 2012 — 14 points more than say so among those who are feeling either less-than-serious hardship, or none at all.
A drought in the Horn of Africa, triggered by the same La Ni±a episode that caused massive flooding in Australia last year, is plunging millions of pastoralists closer to food insecurity.
Parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and eastern Uganda are most affected. The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 8.4 million people are in need of food aid in the region, according to spokesman David Orr. Thousands of livestock have already died in Kenya and Ethiopia from animal diseases associated with the drought. The severity this year will depend on the rainy season between March and May.
“It is too early to say yet, although the general view is [the rains] look like being quite poor in certain parts of Somalia and Ethiopia,” said Orr. “Combined with conflict and rising food prices in Somalia, this could be particularly serious in that country.”
The WFP is continuing its normal operations of providing a food basket of cereals to the regions but is underfunded by 56 percent for the April to September period, Orr said.
In a country such as Ethiopia — whose economy is expected to grow at 9 percent this year according to the Economist Intelligence Unit and lags just behind China and India at 8.1 percent per year in the period between 2011 and 2015, according to the IMF — there are concerns the La Ni±a episode could hamper growth in the short term.
Droghts are not new to the region. A massive one between 2008 and 2009 left 23 million people hungry and millions of livestock dead. And before that, droughts have taught pastoralists to become nomads, moving with their hardy animals in search of better grazing land.