Online Program

Colorado River and climate change: Averting social and environmental disaster

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Melissa M. Kelley, MS, School of Public Health, Community Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
In the semi-arid west, having a reliable water source has been a fundamental limitation to life. For centuries, the Colorado River has been the lifeblood of southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico inhabitants providing not only an essential nutrient for life, drinking water, but economic security with jobs in farming and fishing as well as environmental sanctuary for numerous plant and animal species. Given the system is already under water stress and climate change could reduce the flow further, the future of the river, however, is uncertain. Preliminary findings show annual runoff is expected to decrease, but to what level is level unknown. Estimates predict that a 10% reduction in flow could to yield a 50% shortage probability by 2040 and a 20% reduction could yield a 50% shortage probability by 2025. Yet, a 5% reduction is expected to cause shortages that violate legal allocation agreements furthering political tensions and environmental degradation in the United States and Mexico. Thus, it is necessary to determine what consequences such reductions will have on the Colorado River, and what measures should be implements to improve our capacity to cope with potential impacts. This analysis will explore the challenges climate change could create for water security in the Colorado River Basin with a focus on the social and environmental ramifications for the U.S. and Mexico. Environmental consequences will be explored using GIS and remote sensing, and social dimensions, such as political, legal, economic and cultural issues, with literature reviews and meta-analysis.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health biology
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify factors contributing to water stress in the Colorado River Basin. Describe how climate change could influence social and environmental issues in the Colorado River Basin. Discuss the implications of climate change on the water supply in the Colorado River Basin.

Keyword(s): Water, Climate Change

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted this analysis as part of a larger project on the Colorado River. My educational qualifications include an MS in Public Health with a specialization in Emergency Public Health and a BS in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. I am currently working on my PhD in Public Health with minors in Urban Planning and Geography with a concentration of the interaction of physical and social environments.
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.