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Travel: Exploring western water development

Hoover Dam. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION.

National Park Service creates online itinerary for historic water projects

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Water has been a defining force in the American West for eons, first shaping landscapes like the Grand Canyon, then shaping the lives of residents, from the Anasazi to modern-day settlers and developers who live and play in region.

The biggest transformation came in the early 20th century, with industrious and ambitious development schemes that resulted in a network of dams  reservoirs, and canals built that provide water for irrigation and hydropower generation.

This wholesale manipulation of water in the arid landscape spurred settlement, farming, and economic stability — though it’s still not clear whether this water-dependent culture is sustainable for the long-term. Continue reading

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Western water supplies will take big climate change hit

Western water resources are at risk from climate change, according to a new report from the Bureau of Reclamation.

BuRec report says higher temps, changes to runoff likely under most climate change scenarios

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Water supplies in the western United States could be hit hard by projected global warming impacts, including temperature increases of 5 to 7 degrees across the region, according to the Department of Interior, which this week released a new report assessing how climate change could affect water operations, hydropower, flood control, and fish and wildlife.

The report to Congress was prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation and represents the first consistent and coordinated assessment of risks to future water supplies across eight major Reclamation river basins, including the Colorado, Rio Grande and Missouri river basins.

The report forecasts an 8 to 20 percent decrease in average annual stream flow in several river basins, including the Colorado, the Rio Grande, and the San Joaquin. Big changes in the timing and volume of spring runoff are likely to have impacts on agriculture and hydropower operations. Continue reading

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