247674 Exploring the impacts of population growth and climate change on the Colorado River Basin's water supply

Monday, October 31, 2011

Melissa M. Kelley, MS , School of Public Health, Community Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Water is an essential nutrient for life. As such, civilizations have historically flourished around rivers and waterways, or they have been limited by their lack of access to water resources. Since much of the western United States has a semi-arid climate, tapping into a reliable water source has been a fundamental challenge. For the last century, the Colorado River has been the lifeblood of the West supporting over 27 million people and three million acres of farmland, among other uses. Although the Colorado River is only the fifth largest US river in volume flow, more water is exported from the basin than any other river in the country. Research has shown the river system is already under water stress, and it will likely be sensitive to climate change impacts. Predictive models using temperature and/or carbon dioxide variables have estimated potential reductions in flow over 30%. However, a 5% reduction is expected to cause shortages that violate legal allocation agreements furthering political tensions and environmental degradation. In addition to climate change, increased demand from population growth has been identified as a water supply threat, yet, it has not been incorporated into predictive models for the Colorado River Basin. This analysis will explore both dimensions, climate change and population growth, as factors influencing future water supplies in the Colorado River Basin. Unlike past research, spatial calculations will be performed using remote sensing and GIS technologies with images obtained from MODIS, Landsat, AVHRR and GOES satellites, among other resources. Findings will be compared to current models, which only utilize climate change variables as a predictor water supply. Results are expected to provide a more sensitive measure of future water supplies in the Colorado River Basin. This could help reduce uncertainties and improve our capacity to cope with potential impacts.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify factors contributing to water stress in the Colorado River Basin. Describe spatial techniques that can be used to model future water supplies. Discuss the implications of potential water supply shortages in the Colorado River Basin.

Keywords: Water, Climate Change

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted this analysis as preliminary research for my dissertation. I also have a Master of Science in Public Health with a specialization in Emergency Public Health. Other relevant and current research experience involves work on the National Survey on Disaster Experiences and Preparedness; California Survey of Household Earthquake Preparedness and Mitigation; an NSF-funded assessment of the public health impacts of Hurricane Katrina; and a CDC-funded assessment of local evacuation planning in California.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.