By Mohammed Mahmoud, Senior Policy Analyst, Colorado River Programs
This year’s Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) conference includes a panel on climate adaptation. This is a very apropos topic considering the conference theme -- “No Shortage of Concern: Beyond the Shadow of Drought.”
When it comes to climate change, CAP’s primary concerns are drought, increased warming and extreme weather events. The Colorado River Basin generates CAP’s water supply, so warmer and drier conditions caused by prolonged, climate-change induced drought in the watershed, along with reduced snowpack and streamflow, is a major challenge that requires active management. Increased warming can also contribute to water supply reduction through enhanced surface water evaporation. In addition, warming generates water quality issues (e.g. algae growth and turbidity), reduces the life span of physical assets, and poses health risks to CAP employees who work in the field. Extreme weather events such as dust storms (haboobs) and intense thunderstorms that generate flash flooding are also safety hazards to CAP employees and can cause serious damage to CAP infrastructure.
CAP has long been involved in numerous efforts and activities to manage these risks and adapt to climate change. And while most of these efforts have targeted the drought issue (e.g. water augmentation, conservation, and storage), CAP has also taken steps to comprehensively incorporate climate adaptation at all critical levels of the organization through the development of our own organizational climate adaptation plan. In addition, CAP is an active participant in the Water Utility Climate Alliance, a coalition of 12 of the largest drinking water utilities across the United States that collectively serve more than 50 million people. The Water Utility Climate Alliance was formed to provide climate adaptation leadership and collaboration on climate change issues affecting the nation’s water agencies.
Ultimately, climate adaptation provides CAP with another water management tool that holistically addresses water resource vulnerabilities and builds institutional capacity and resiliency for managing future climate uncertainty.