As planet warms, US West loses water: report

Citing a new report concluding that global warming threatens New Mexico’s water supply, state and local officials are joining with environmentalists in demanding immediate steps to address the issue. The report, Less Snow, Less Water, was released Friday by the New Mexico Public Interest Research Group. The study concludes that due to rising global temperatures, precipitation that used to fall as snow is increasingly falling as rain in the West. Government snowpack-measurement records going back to 1961 indicate that snowpack levels have been below average for 11 of the past 16 years in the Colorado River Basin and for 10 of the past 16 years in the Rio Grande Basin, the study says.

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, based in Colorado, prepared the study, using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If steps aren’t taken to reduce emissions that cause global warming, the study predicts, temperature increases in the West are likely to be even greater than the 3-degrees to 10-degrees Fahrenheit increases predicted worldwide by the end of the 21st century, compared with 1990.

At the present rate of temperature increase, losses of 24% of the snowpack in the Colorado River Basin are predicted by 2010-2039 and 30% by the years 2040-2069. Loss of snowpack leads to lower river flows and reduces the amount of water available for cities and agriculture.

Speaking in the wake of Katrina and Rita, Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) said Congress should look into the possible connection between global warming and increased hurricanes. “This is a prime opportunity for Congress to seriously confront the threat of global warming—one of the largest challenges of the 21st century,” Udall said. “We need to look at the compelling evidence that suggests there is a link between global warming and these ferocious hurricanes.”

Jeanne Bassett, executive director of NM-PIRG, said her group hopes the report will help prod people into action. “Because of the lack of action, that’s why we feel it’s important to do something at the state level,” Bassett said.

Sandra Ely, environment and energy policy coordinator for the New Mexico Environment Department, said the report concludes global warming is already affecting New Mexico’s water supply. “The message today is that global warming is real; it’s happening now,” she said.

Gov. Bill Richardson has already set targets for reduction of greenhouse gases in the state. He announced this year that he wants to see emissions reduced to year 2000 levels by 2012 and to 75 percent below year 2000 levels by 2050. (New Mexican, Sept. 24)

See our last post on global climate destabilization.