New tools expand access to critical data for assessing water availability across the West

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WASHINGTON, DC, May 17, 2012 -- A new online tool for western water managers and the public is expected to help increase accessibility of science-based information and understanding of how climate variations will impact the availability of water to communities. Projected streamflow data can be found at the Bureau of Reclamation's new website on Streamflow Projections for the Western United States. The site provides a straightforward interface to data for 195 sites on streams and rivers throughout the West.

"Across the western United States, water is the lifeblood of our communities, their economies and their environments," said Secretary Salazar. "The Department of the Interior produces valuable scientific activity, and this resource ensures that consistent and easily accessible data is available to everyone, such as local water managers -- not just scientists.

Also announced today from Interior is a series of projections for the effects of climate change on fourteen U.S. basins. The U.S. Geological Survey evaluated the hydrologic response to different projected carbon emission scenarios using a hydrologic simulation model and applied the model to specific basins across the nation. For more information on this study, click here.

Reclamation's new online streamflow projections tool and the USGS report build upon the efforts of the Department of the Interior and its bureaus to evaluate how climate variability may impact hydrology and the availability of water supplies in the western United States.

Reclamation's 2010-2011 West-Wide Climate Risk Assessment  developed a large set of hydrologic projections at a 12 kilometer resolution covering western states; this data is used in the streamflow projections. The impacts to western water resources in the United States derived from this data were highlighted in Reclamation's SECURE Water Act Report  released in April 2011.

Although this data has been publicly available since 2011, access has been primarily limited to technical users who have the ability to translate the gridded hydrology projections into future streamflow and water supplies at locations of interest. This new, user-friendly tool builds in those complex calculations for future streamflow and water supplies at the 195 relevant sites, using an approach developed by the University of Washington.

"The data available through this new tool will help local water managers and planners throughout the West," Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor noted. "Climate variability will impact the timing and amount of water available. This science-based resource allows for the incorporation of climate change modeling in the long-term planning of local communities as they strive to meet their future water needs."

This latest Reclamation dataset is just one of several tools developed and used by agencies within the Department of the Interior to study potential impacts on water supplies from climate change and to provide tools to resource managers to adapt to those changes.

The Bias Corrected and Downscaled Climate and Hydrology Projections  archive, for example, was collaboratively developed by Reclamation, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Santa Clara University, Climate Central, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Scientists derived the projections from downscaled, monthly gridded precipitation and temperature data from 112 contemporary climate projections over the contiguous United States. This data was made available through the World Climate Research Programme and serves the gridded hydrology projections generated from the West-Wide Climate Risk Assessment.

This type of data will particularly benefit Interior's Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. LCCs are public-private partnerships that recognize that climate change and other natural resource challenges transcend political and jurisdictional boundaries. The cooperatives provide a landscape-scale approach to conservation -- collaborative, adaptive and grounded in science -- to ensure the sustainability of America's land, water, wildlife and cultural resources. LCCs seek to identify best practices and knowledge gaps, and avoid duplication through improved conservation planning and design.

The climate change toolbox also supports Interior's WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow) effort which Secretary Salazar launched in February 2010 to facilitate the work of Interior's bureaus in pursuing a sustainable water supply for the nation. The program establishes a framework to provide federal leadership and assistance on the efficient use of water and integrating water and energy policies to support the sustainable use of all natural resources.

To learn more about how Reclamation is addressing the impacts of climate change please visit www.usbr.gov/climate.

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