Study shows shortfall in Lower Rio Grande Basin future water supply

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WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 30, 2013 -- A new study conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation finds that a shortfall of 678,522 acre-feet of water per year will be required in the Lower Rio Grande Basin in 2060 due to increased demand and climate change.

The study indicates that climate change is likely to result in increased temperatures, decreased precipitation and increased evapotranspiration in the study area. As a result, a projected 86,438 acre-feet of water per year will need to be added to the 592,084 acre-feet per year of supply shortfall predicted in the existing regional planning process in 2060.

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor released the Lower Rio Grande Basin study that evaluated the impacts of climate change on water demand and supply imbalances along the Rio Grande near the United States/Mexico border from Fort Quitman, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico.

"Basin studies are an important element of the Department of the Interior's WaterSMART initiative and give us a clearer picture of the possible future gaps between water demand and our available supplies," Commissioner Connor said. "This study of the lower Rio Grande basin will provide water managers with science-based tools to make important future decisions as they work to meet the region's diverse water needs. In addition, the study will help inform water management discussions between the U.S. and Mexico through the International Boundary Water Commission."

Seawater desalination, brackish groundwater desalination, reuse and fresh groundwater development were examined as alternatives to meet future water demands. The study found that brackish groundwater development was most suitable. Further analysis was conducted and found that regional brackish groundwater systems would best meet the planning objective. An appraisal-level plan formulation and evaluation process was conducted to determine potential locations of each regional brackish groundwater desalination system.

Accordingly, water supply imbalances exacerbated by climate change will greatly reduce the reliability of deliveries to all users who are dependent on deliveries of Rio Grande water via irrigation deliveries. The study includes an acknowledgment that all water management strategies recommended through the recently adopted regional water plan are part of a needed portfolio of solutions for the study area.

The Lower Rio Grande Basin Study was developed by Reclamation and the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority and its 53 member entities. Further, it was conducted as part of WaterSMART -- the U.S. Department of the Interior's sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. Basin studies are comprehensive water studies that define options for meeting future water demands in river basins in the western United States where imbalances in water supply and demand exist or are projected to exist. Since the program's establishment, 19 basins have been selected to be evaluated. For more information, visit www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/bsp.

See also: "Water management in U.S. improved by WaterSMART programs."

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