The temperature along Colorado’s Western Slope is rising twice as fast as the average around the world. 20 years of drought and warming temperatures have decreased Colorado River water flow 20% in the last 50 years. Because of climate change, including regional warming, there is less snowpack in Colorado’s mountains, which means that there is little chance this kind of reduction will be reversed.
The Colorado River supplies water to 7 states. Las Vegas alone gets over 90% of the 141,293 million gallons of water the city uses each year from the Colorado River.
Climate change has caused earlier melting of less snow, which leads to a change in timing of streamflow in rivers that begin in the mountains. That leads to an increase in severe droughts. In the Colorado River Basin, temperature-based changes to water supply mean that there will be less hydropower produced. Each percentage point of decrease in water flow results in three times as much decrease in power generation. The river currently provides close to 12 billion kilowatt hours per year, using the Parker, Hoover, Glen Canyon, Grand Valley Diversion, and Granby Hydroelectric Dams.
As water evaporates into the air, warmer air temperatures increase the amount of moisture held in the atmosphere. That water may fall in increasingly strong storms in other areas. Sadly, the areas in which water is needed most, like on the Western Slope, are not likely to see increased rainfall. Unfortunately, fierce storms in the Northeast, Midwest, and upper Great Plains are now dropping 30% more rain in the last 50 years, leading to dangers of flooding and pollutants washing into water supplies.
Until climate change is mitigated, systems need to be put in place that would allow better conservation of water, cleaning of waste and polluted water, and a better means of dispersing water from areas inundated by it to areas in desperate need.
This is why IX Water is working hard with industry: to help them create a closed water cycle, leaving more water for people.