How Climate Change Impacts Your Water

POP QUIZ: How many gallons of water does the average Coloradan use per day? A) 75-100 B) 120-150 C) 250-275

ANSWER:  A) The average resident uses about 85 gallons of water per day (not including farming or lawn irrigation), according to the USGS Water Science Center. This is a reduction from 10 years ago.

Water supply depends on geography, weather, management, and laws/regulations. Of those variables, weather is one that has received a great deal of attention in recent years. Planning for future water supplies depends on observing climate trends and developing predictive models. But what do we do when the models and its data and results keep changing?

A warming climate has revealed trends that affect how we plan for water use. Colorado’s Water Plan addresses projected climate changes and their affects on Colorado’s water resources. Some recent modeling and studies show:

  • The recent trend toward earlier peak runoff and lower late-summer flows could continue.
  • Considerable hydrologic fluctuation, including floods and drought, are possible within the same year. In 2011 and 2013, Colorado experienced both extreme flooding and severe droughts.
  • Lower stream flows could impact water quality, with increased concentrations of pollutants.
  • Changes in runoff could impact the administration of water rights.
  • Warmer temperatures impact the frequency and severity of wildfires as well as insect infestations on forested land.
  • Temperature variability impacts agriculture, fisheries, and recreation (water and snow activities) statewide

Given these potential impacts, the need for planning, conservation, and storage is greater than ever before. If you have concerns about how climate change could impact your water resource planning or water rights, we’re here to help. To learn more about water conservation plans, water rights, or other water issues, contact us.

image courtesy of NOAA