Climate change still threatens key U.S. river after wet winter

Las Vegas Sun –

Snow swamped mountains across the U.S. West last winter, leaving enough to thrill skiers into the summer, swelling rivers and streams when it melted, and largely making wildfire restrictions unnecessary. But the wet weather can be misleading.

Climate change means the region is still getting drier and hotter.

“It only demonstrates the wide swings we have to manage going forward,” James Eklund, former director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, an interstate agency that ensures river water is doled out properly, said earlier this year. “You can put an ice cube — even an excellent ice cube — in a cup of hot coffee, but eventually it’s going to disappear.”

For the seven states relying on the Colorado River, which carries melted snow from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California, that means a future with increasingly less water for farms and cities.

Climate scientists say it’s hard to predict how much less. The river supplies 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming as well as a $5 billion-a-year agricultural industry.

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