Letters From the West

Report places Idaho at lower risk for water shortage from climate change

A new U.S. Forest Service report predicts that Idaho won’t face the same water shortages as the Southwest, parts of California and the southern and central Great Plains.
These areas are expected to be the most vulnerable areas in the nation to water shortages during the next 60 years, the report said. Climate change will substantially increase water demand and reduce water supply in those regions even as cities, farms and thermoelectric facilities become more efficient in their water usage.
Scientists from the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Colorado State University and Princeton University used global climate models and other data to predict future water supply and demand, and the likelihood of future water shortages. The research team showed where water shortages would occur if populations grew and climates changed—but water-allocation rules, infrastructure, laws and use trends stayed the same. The report shows where adaptation measures will be most needed.

But Idaho had only a low risk of shortage, according to the maps in the report. That does not mean there won’t be drought years, only less risk they will lead to shortages here than in the Southwest.
“We were surprised to find that climate change is likely to have a much greater effect on future water demands than population growth.,” said Tom Brown, Research Economist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West