Wyoming Could Face Multiple Years of Snowless Winters
Thursday, December 16, 2021
CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Wyoming and other western states are projected to see multiple years in a row without any snow as soon as 35 years out if efforts to rein in fossil-fuel emissions fail to meet global targets, according to a new report.
Almost 75% of water use in western states comes from snowpack.
Matt Rice, southwest regional director for the group American Rivers, said the report should be a red flag for water managers and policymakers to make plans now for a future with a lot less water.
"How do we build resilience in this new more arid future for the West?" Rice questioned. "It's important to make sure that we have the ability to keep water in rivers, to dedicate water to the environment, for fish, for wildlife."
Rising temperatures already have cut snowpack by 20% below 1950s levels, and researchers project by century's end, the vast majority of years -- up to 94% -- will see little or zero snowfall. Loss of snow will not just close ski resorts. Scientists already have linked vanishing snowfall to more frequent and catastrophic wildfires.
The first sector likely to see water restrictions will be agriculture.
Rice said investments are needed to help farmers and ranchers retool for more efficient irrigation and conservation, because no one wants to see a mass dry-up on lands across the West.
"And it's not like when you remove water that land comes back with native grasses and plants and shrubs," Rice cautioned. "This is oftentimes land that has been irrigated for 100-plus years, and to take water off of it, it creates a kind of 'deathscape.'"
Recommendations for adaptation include monitoring weather patterns to avoid flooding by capturing increasingly intense, if less frequent, downpours to refill aquifers. While conflicts over water rights have a long history in western states, Rice noted the issue traditionally has cut across political boundaries.
"As scarcity increases, my fear is that it will digress into a partisan issue, or rural versus urban, when it comes to water," Rice stressed. "These challenges are so significant that we can't afford not to all be in this together."
get more stories like this via email
The Nevada primary election is June 14, and early voting starts tomorrow and runs through June 10. Mail balloting is now permanent, so every active …
Democrats in the Florida Legislature are reviving calls for stricter gun-control laws, following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Florida's …
This week, in honor of World Otter Day, conservation groups are looking to raise awareness about efforts to restore sea otters along more areas of …
Health and Wellness
With the unofficial start to summer, pools around Ohio are opening this Memorial Day weekend, and when it comes to swim time, experts encourage …
As the nation processes the horrific shooting in Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were killed, teachers' unions across Illinois and America …
The cost of heading out of town this Memorial Day weekend will be higher than past years, with higher gas prices and inflation hitting travelers…
Health and Wellness
One of Connecticut's largest health systems launched a new resource in Hartford this month, aimed at helping patients access healthy and nutritious …
Advocates are contending the New York State Senate is not doing enough to lower the price of prescription drugs. Recently, lawmakers dropped bills …