Study: Warming to affect watersheds | NevadaAppeal.com

Study: Warming to affect watersheds

Protecting watersheds is crucial to the Sierra Nevada as climate change becomes more of an apparent phenomenon, according to a report released by South Shore-based Sierra Nevada Alliance.

The nonprofit conservation group formed in 1993 to monitor the 400-mile-long Sierra reports that climate change, also known as global warming, is a threat to snowpacks, which provide up to 65 percent of California’s developed water supply.

Population growth and the fact that many scientists are predicting an increase in rainfall in the Sierra will challenge the methods of water collection in the Sierra, according to the report released last week.

Federal climate experts say September was the warmest on record throughout the world. The average temperature was about 1 degree Fahrenheit above average on records going back to 1880, according to Jay Lawrimore of the National Climate Data Center. The second- and third-warmest Septembers on record were 1997 and 1998.

“The answer to our future is not a lot of new expensive dams that severely impact fish, wildlife and recreation,” said Joan Clayburgh, executive director of the alliance. “California needs to invest in the health of the Sierra’s natural storage systems, like meadows and forests, and make water conservation a priority.”

The mean temperature in Maine, Vermont, Nevada and California has been above average, while significantly cooler-than-average temperatures occurred in 17 states, primarily in the Central and Southern Plains, the central Mississippi Valley, the Ohio Valley and parts of the Southeast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Sierra Nevada Alliance and other groups say they have called on California lawmakers to form a conservancy group for the region.

“This report raises new concerns about the future of California’s water supply,” said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee. “It deserves serious consideration by policy makers.”

To obtain a copy of the report, “Troubled Waters of the Sierra,” go to http://www.sierranevadaalliance.org.