Project will help Nevada build resiliency to future droughts
Managing water in northern Nevada’s Truckee-Carson River System requires local communities to balance urban, agricultural and ecosystem needs. Changes in historical climate trends are increasingly expected to make this balancing act more challenging. A competitive grant totaling $3.8 million has been awarded to the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute (DRI), in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, to integrate science and water policy research with extensive community outreach to identify the expected impacts of climate change and solutions for protecting valuable water resources throughout northern Nevada.
The “Water for the Seasons” project will focus on the Truckee-Carson River System as a model for snow-fed arid-land river systems across the American West. Funding includes $1.8 million awarded by the National Science Foundation to the University and $2 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to DRI and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Water supplies in these regions are dependent on the timing, duration and form of winter precipitation and spring run-off. Throughout much of the West, demand for these water supplies is increasing, and many are already stretched to their capacity. Recent climate extremes and trends – including continued drought, increased winter rain instead of snow, reduced annual snowpack, earlier spring runoffs, flash floods and higher temperatures – present challenges to agency water managers, local farmers and ranchers, urban developers and the general public. This project aims to identify new strategies for enhancing the resiliency of communities in northern Nevada to adapt to these challenges and changes.
An interdisciplinary research team with expertise in hydrology, climate science, environmental policy, resource economics, public policy and community outreach will work closely with the region’s diverse stakeholder communities to assess impacts of different drought scenarios and climate extremes; develop models of water supplies and demands resulting from those scenarios; and develop policy options to help stakeholders evaluate and meet challenges posed by warming temperatures and unpredictable water supplies.
“Our goal is to be proactive now so that the region can be better prepared to meet future water management challenges,” said Maureen McCarthy, interim director of the University’s Academy for the Environment and the project’s director. “Ultimately, we are looking for options that will protect our ecosystems, support economic development and enhance the livelihoods of our communities and agricultural producers.”
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