Arizona Daily Star Highlights the Lower Santa Cruz River Basin Study

June 30, 2021

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Photo credit: Central Arizona Project

In the Southwest, climate change is driving hotter and drier weather conditions, leading to impacts on the region’s future water supplies. Draft outcomes from a multi-year study sponsored by the US Bureau of Reclamation have recently been shared. The Lower Santa Cruz River Basin Study (LSCRBS) brings together a team from the University of Arizona and other local water experts to project future water conditions and offer strategies to adapt to a changing climate.

The LSCRBS projects that hotter and drier weather will lead to a reduction in the amount of streamflow available to replenish the Tucson metropolitan area’s aquifer. As the study points out, exactly what happens will depend on whether the area follows a ‘worse-case’ or ‘best-case’ scenario. The best-case version relies on global reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and reducing water demand.

One of the main findings of the study is that there is a possibility of significantly increased groundwater pumping in the Tucson area’s future. Tucson’s main renewable source of water is from the Colorado River, and the less water available from the Colorado in the future means a greater need for Tucson to pump ‘fossil groundwater supplies’ from the aquifer. 

The project partners hope to help the Tucson community develop strategies to adapt to climate change by anticipating where in the basin supply and demand imbalances may be in the future.  The next step in the project is finalizing the set of adaptation options and conducting an assessment of their relative costs and benefits. Click here to learn more about this project and stay up-to-date on outcomes.

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