Archive for May 2013
This is a sample blog post composed at the NSF “Science: Becoming the Messenger” workshop in Boise, Idaho, May 29-30, 2013.
When people think about Idaho, an image often comes to mind of untrammeled wilderness, deep gorges and powerful rivers, perhaps dotted with the occasional fly fisherman, trying to land salmon as they travel upstream to spawn. Life unfolds against a backdrop of stunning scenery and is suffused with an appreciation of the outdoors—for nature drives a significant part of our tourist economy, as well as our quality of life.
However, those rivers that sustain us, and that make Idaho what it is, also underscore a key risk to the state. Idaho already leads the nation in its per capita consumption of water resources for agriculture, hydroelectric power, human consumption, and other needs. What’s more, in recent years Idaho has had one of the fastest growing populations in the U.S., meaning that its water demands are steadily increasing. This will present a considerable future strain, fueling increased water conflicts and ultimately threatening our very quality of life—and all the more so if it is compounded by climate change. Global warming is expected to further destabilize our water system by rendering rainfall and river flows more variable and unpredictable, and overall, by increasing flooding potential and decreasing the storage of water in the mountain snowpack that ultimately feeds our rivers. (Not to mention raising the risk of wildfires and droughts, as much of the state experienced in 2012.)
There’s a way to manage this problem sustainably—and intelligently. However, that will require a much greater scientific understanding than we currently possess about the kinds of water changes we’ll see, and how they’ll impact us across all sectors, from agriculture to the tourism industry. Read the rest of this entry »