Rising temperatures challenge Salt Lake City's water supply

Nov 01, 2013

In an example of the challenges water-strapped Western cities will face in a warming world, new research shows that every degree Fahrenheit of warming in the Salt Lake City region could mean a 1.8 to 6.5 percent drop in the annual flow of streams that provide water to the city.

By midcentury, warming Western temperatures may mean that some of the creeks and streams that help slake Salt Lake City's thirst will dry up several weeks earlier in the summer and fall, according to the new paper, published today in the journal Earth Interactions. The findings may help regional planners make choices about long-term investments, including water storage and even land-protection policies.

"Many Western water suppliers are aware that change will have impacts, but they don't have detailed information that can help them plan for the future," said lead author Tim Bardsley, with NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. "Because our research team included hydrologists, climate scientists and water utility experts, we could dig into the issues that mattered most to the operators responsible for making sure clean water flows through taps and sprinklers without interruption."

Bardsley works for the CIRES Western Water Assessment, from the NOAA Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City. For the new paper, he worked closely with colleagues from the city's water utility, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory and the University of Utah.

The team relied on climate model projections of and precipitation in the area, historical data analysis and a detailed understanding of the region from which the city utility obtains water. The study also used NOAA streamflow forecasting models that provide information for Salt Lake City's current water operations and management.

The picture that emerged was similar, in some ways, to previous research on the water in the Interior West: Warmer temperatures alone will cause more of the region's precipitation to fall as rain than snow, leading to earlier runoff and less water in creeks and streams in the late summer and fall.

"Many snow-dependent regions follow a consistent pattern in responding to warming, but it's important to drill down further to understand the sensitivity of watersheds that matter for individual water supply systems," said NCAR's Andy Wood, a co-author.

The specifics in the new analysis—which creeks are likely to be impacted most and soonest, how water sources on the nearby western flank of the Wasatch Mountains and the more distant eastern flank will fare—are critical to water managers with Salt Lake City.

"We are using the findings of this sensitivity analysis to better understand the range of impacts we might experience under scenarios," said co-author Laura Briefer, water resources manager at the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities. "This is the kind of tool we need to help us adapt to a changing climate, anticipate future changes and make sound water-resource decisions."

"Water emanating from our local Wasatch Mountains is the lifeblood of the Salt Lake Valley, and is vulnerable to the projected changes in climate," said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. "This study, along with other climate adaptation work Salt Lake City is doing, helps us plan to be a more resilient community in a time of climate change."

Among the details in the new assessment:

  • Temperatures are already rising in northern Utah, about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, and continue to climb. Summer temperatures have increased especially steeply and are expected to continue to do so. Increasing temperatures during the summer irrigation season may increase .
  • Every increase in a degree Fahrenheit means an average decrease of 3.8 percent in annual from watersheds used by Salt Lake City. This means less water available from Salt Lake City's watersheds in the future.
  • Lower-elevation streams are more sensitive to increasing temperatures, especially from May through September, and city water experts may need to rely on less-sensitive, higher-elevation sources in late summer, or more water storage.
  • Models tell an uncertain story about total future precipitation in the region, primarily because Utah is on the boundary of the Southwest (projected to dry) and the U.S. northern tier states (projected to get wetter).
  • Overall, models suggest increased winter flows, when water demand is lower, and decreased summer flows when water demand peaks.
  • Annual precipitation would need to increase by about 10 percent to counteract the stream-drying effect of a 5-degree increase in temperature.
  • A 5-degree temperature increase would also mean that peak water flow in the western Wasatch creeks would occur two to four weeks earlier in the summer than it does today. This earlier stream runoff will make it more difficult to meet demand as the irrigation season progresses.

Explore further: Global warming to cut snow water storage 56 percent in Oregon watershed

More information: "Planning for an Uncertain Future: Climate Change Sensitivity Assessment Toward Adaptation Planning for Public Water Supply," Earth Interactions.

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User comments : 18

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kochevnik
2.8 / 5 (16) Nov 01, 2013
They can change the name from Salt Lake to Salt Lick. Problem solved!
RobPaulG
2.2 / 5 (27) Nov 01, 2013
Somebody has not been reading the news that temps haven't increased for 16 years now. Please get informed whoever wrote this nonsense.
Grallen
2.8 / 5 (13) Nov 01, 2013
An increase less than expected, does not mean did not increase.
NikFromNYC
2 / 5 (28) Nov 01, 2013
In 2009, James Hansen's right hand man Gavin Schmidt of the computer terminal office above Tom's diner here in NYC two blocks from me here in the Columbia University neighborhood published a picture book about Global Warming in 2009, seven months before Climategate revealed the corruption of peer review in climate science, with peers that then whitewashed the whole "hide the decline" affair. The cover was of Lake Powell in Utah during a drought that peaked in 2004:
http://postimg.or...arpvc11/

Since that dam-created lake was used as a poster child of Global Warming, levels have recovered instead of spiraled away:
http://www.hcn.or...hrinking

The oldest thermometer record in Utah is indeed from SLC, and the latest Berkeley temperature data series for it shows not much going on since the dust bowl era of the 1930s:
http://berkeleyea...s/163204
NikFromNYC
1.7 / 5 (23) Nov 01, 2013
One thing alarmists and skeptics alike can agree on is that a rapid expansion of nuclear power is a winning policy change now that the entire biosphere is potentially doomed and nuclear powered desalination plants can vastly moderate drought conditions worldwide. Oh, wait, Greenpeace & Friends are exactly the ones responsible for our high emissions era in the first, and last, place. The original co-founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, sounded the real alarm:

"It's hard to believe Greenpeace has already managed to stop over 200 different hydro projects, leaving the way open for more coal-fired electricity plants."

Translation: extremist environmentalism thwarts water management.

He also reveals that Greenpeace opposition to Golden Rice is *killing* millions of children, a worthy goal for green policy makers, evidently:
http://news.natio...of-lives

Monsters!
NikFromNYC
1.6 / 5 (21) Nov 01, 2013
The future Columbia University Ph.D. supercomputer climate model "denier" -=NikFromNYC=- who scaled the front of Mt. Olympus in a day is seen here cutting his teeth on the cliffs of Lake Powell back in the 1980s when the band Japan influenced his mojo:
http://i51.tinypi...6qlx.jpg

After spending most summers in Salt Lake City where radioactive water is the main talk of the town, he is now an Upper West Sider, releaved that James "Coal Death Trains" Hansen is no longer in the neighborhood calling for the execution of oil company CEOs via trials for crimes against humanity, and by implication promoting the necessary forceful censoring of scientific (= skeptical) voices that indeed spell doom for his doomsday cult.

In the early 1990s, he appeared online as -=Xenon=- of the Macintosh Cryptography Interface Project, an early port of the encryption program PGP to the Mac graphical interface, back when a hardware backdoor Clipper Chip was nearly dictated by Congress, for devices.
antigoracle
1.8 / 5 (24) Nov 01, 2013
The only thing getting drier, are the lies from the desperate AGW Alarmist Cult.
Howhot
3.3 / 5 (12) Nov 02, 2013
6.5% per degree F of water per year loss. I bet the folks in Utah are hoping like heck that global average temperatures (and local temperatures) remain where they are. At that rate, 50 years the Great Salt lake could be a salty mud hole. Or as the first poster said; Just "change the name from Salt Lake to Salt Lick."

"James "Coal Death Trains" Hansen is no longer in the neighborhood calling for the execution of oil company CEOs via trials for crimes against humanity."

It's too bad Hansen isn't still calling for that. These Companies have lied to us and continue to do so about the devastation and utter destruction they have inflicted on the environment, both by the rape of the land, and by the toxic pollution from the use of their products that has and will kill millions.

"Translation: extremist environmentalism thwarts water management." A lot of chest pounding words about what you don't want but no ideas that help. Thanks for input NY, typical tea-party crap as usual aye?
NikFromNYC
1.6 / 5 (22) Nov 02, 2013
Howhot, I detest the Tea Party as it has been infected with unelectable abortion banning Bible thumper creationists and idiotic anti-science Republicans like Sara "Anti-Fruit Fly R&D" Palin. Being a chemist who witnessed a whole generation of the brightest college kids sour on the biggest frontier of all which is neuroscience, due to Drug War red tape that represents a ban on studies of higher conscious function, I find it disheartening that liberalism too has degenerated into a doomsday cult all tied to the weather outside which is doing the opposite of their claims.

Highest Antarctic ice ever recorded, lowest hurricane activity of any President, longest deviation from climate model predictions, etc.

The quite outspoken journalist and left wing essay writer Alexander Cockburn, a veritable icon of old school liberal thought, likened recent Climate cult misbehavior to the Inquisition, in a short interview clip that includes a Murphy's Law view of nuclear power:
http://www.youtub...YenWfz0Y
NikFromNYC
1.5 / 5 (22) Nov 02, 2013
Oh, Howhot, the currently ten fake user Gorebot accounts here that corrupt the ratings system don't even like you yet as they certainly attach to most activist regulars as seen in the Activity tab of commenter profiles. It's very valuable for us skeptics to prod you into admitting to your having a desire to execute skeptics of supercomputer models. Should the head of Georgia Tech's climate science department Judith Curry also be executed for her ongoing ridicule of the activist brochure based IPCC reports? Or the pair of mainstream climatologists who run one of NASA's satillite based global average temperature series called UAH (University of Alabama, Huntsville)? Or Burt Rutan, winner of the XPrize? And, Howhot, is it also time to execute the whole team of Apollo astronauts who are all outspoken skeptical "liars"?
http://a2.img.mob...arge.jpg

Execution is the punishment in trials for crimes against humanity.
runrig
3.4 / 5 (10) Nov 02, 2013
seven months before Climategate revealed the corruption of peer review in climate science, with peers that then whitewashed the whole "hide the decline" affair.

Nik: I shall repeatedly deny your lying bollocks as long as I come across it.
The "decline" talked of was NOT for peer review it was for a glossy publication.
The "decline" was in proxy data known to be at divergence from real temps. So the obvious thing was done. The real data were plotted.
Your repeated lies graphically shows that you and your adherents have a reality problem. I once believed in Father Christmas. I no longer do. Because I grew up and the overwhelming evidence to the contrary persuaded me. (climategate in this context).

What is it about real data and proxy data related to this decline that you don't understand?
Perhaps you do understand it and you're not really that stupid?
Perhaps, as you've stated on here – you are merely stirring things up in order to further your "activist" agenda.
runrig
3.7 / 5 (9) Nov 02, 2013
Highest Antarctic ice ever recorded, lowest hurricane activity of any President, longest deviation from climate model predictions, etc.


The first 2 are weather. Hurricanes need the correct upper atmosphere environment in order to develop. Wind shear will kill them and also will dry air – these 2 things have occurred this year. The drier air comes from the Sahara.
For the scientifically deficient. There are things other than temperature that affect/cause weather. AS with Antarctic ice (salinity, winds) this because Antarctic seas are not enclosed as are Arctic seas.
Models are doing fine thanks Nik. Taking away the ENSO cycle that GCM's cannot predict. And No it doesn't matter because the cycle will reverse and the global rise will return to well within the error bounds predicted.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antarctic_Temperature_Trend_1981-2007.jpg

Below from: http://iopscience...ulltext/

http://www.skepti..._All.gif
runrig
3.7 / 5 (9) Nov 02, 2013
The oldest thermometer record in Utah is indeed from SLC, and the latest Berkeley temperature data series for it shows not much going on since the dust bowl era of the 1930s:
http://berkeleyea...s/163204


Fail again Nik;

By inspection the trend line over the period (Jan 1875 to Jun 2012) has risen ~0.6C.
Pretty much in line with the estimated global trend rise.

http://berkeleyea...-Raw.pdf

The reason you don't see a "hockey-stick" is only because of the length of the x-axis. If you were to plot a long series of proxy data ( 1000's years) then it would necessarily be compressed at the expense of the y-axis.
runrig
3 / 5 (2) Nov 02, 2013
test
goracle
1.8 / 5 (10) Nov 02, 2013
The only thing getting drier, are the lies from the desperate AGW Alarmist Cult.

For a dose of stupidity, Google: site: phys.org antigoracle+turd
ubavontuba
1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 02, 2013
Temperatures refuse to climb:

http://www.woodfo....6/trend

Antarctic ice continues to creep northward:

http://arctic.atm...ctic.png

And the Arctic ice has recovered so abruptly scientists are beginning to fear a period of global cooling is at hand:

"This summer saw air temperatures at the 925 hPa level that were 1 to 3 degrees Celsius (2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than last summer."

"It was also a cool summer compared to recent years over much of the Arctic Ocean, and even cooler than the 1981 to 2010 average in some regions, particularly north of Greenland."

http://nsidc.org/...icenews/

And STILL the AGW alarmists whine. What will it take to satisfy them?

Howhot
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 04, 2013
@NY,
Howhot, I detest the Tea Party as it has been infected with unelectable abortion banning Bible thumper creationists and idiotic anti-science Republicans like Sara "Anti-Fruit Fly R&D" Palin. Being a chemist who witnessed a whole generation of the brightest college kids sour on the biggest frontier of all which is neuroscience, due to Drug War red tape that represents a ban on studies of higher conscious function, I find it disheartening that liberalism too has degenerated into a doomsday cult all tied to the weather outside which is doing the opposite of their claims.

I do agree with all of your points, except that liberalism has degenerated into a doomsday cult. Hell no. As I see it, its the Liberal factions that are trying to be proactive on global climate change. You must agree that there is a problem, it is simple physics after all. At issue is how to resolve it, and find a political direction to reverse global climate change (if even possible). Its tough going.
Howhot
3.3 / 5 (3) Nov 04, 2013
You know, @Ny, there are so many damn counter points to your arguments as @Runrig has pointed out. On the hockeystick, y inspection the trend line over the period (Jan 1875 to Jun 2012) has risen ~0.6C.Pretty much in line with the estimated global trend rise. Also following a nice linear formula that has temp crudely Y = a * X. If your going to deny the correlation of global average temperature and atmospheric CO2 level concentrations, then how are you even a chemist of any standing? Greenhouse warming is basic chem.

1.6 /5 (18) Yeah, that is a lot of fake user Gorebots! Ass.

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