NSF Science & Engineering Messengers

Archive for August 2012

Against the Stream: How Climate Change and Urbanization Threaten Utah’s Water Resources–and What Utah Science Can Do About It

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[Credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Here in Utah, the vulnerability of our water resources has become  impossible to ignore. This year, fully twenty of our counties were designated as drought disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As of this writing, almost the entire state is suffering from moderate to extreme drought.

What’s more, that’s just a taste of what the future could look like. Utah’s population is booming–it’s projected to double over the next three decades. This means our already limited water supplies will be divided among more and more people.  On top of that, the state–already the third driest in the U.S.–is threatened by climate change. In fact, Utah is experiencing twice as much warming as the global average, a change that is probably already affecting water supplies. For instance, more precipitation is falling as rain rather than as snow, according to the Utah Climate Center–and that means less buildup of winter snowpack at high altitudes. This isn’t just bad news for the ski industry; it also means that in the spring, less melt water flows downhill into reservoirs. At the same time, higher air temperatures can lead to drier soils and thus more water demand from farmers—and our growing number of citizens.

There’s still a great deal that we don’t know about how the double-whammy of climate change and increasing urbanization will affect the state’s water, though—and how to get ready for the changes that have already been set in motion. That’s where Utah’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) comes in. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by nsfmessengers

August 22, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized