Climate Change Calls for Auburn Dam

In this article in the Sacramento Bee about a new report concerning water supply and climate change (if you are one who buys the climate change scenario), a few facts emerge that call for one solution that is barely mentioned—no surprise from the Bee—that new dams are needed, and for the American River Watershed, that means Auburn Dam.

As temperature rises, there will be less snow and more rain, calling for more immediate storage, as the snow pack, normally storing water through the winter, will be reduced.

Some excerpts.

Future droughts in California are likely to bite deeper and last longer than the one now gripping the state, according to new research into the potential effects of climate change.

Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the U.S. Geological Survey used computer climate modeling tools to estimate the effects of warmer temperatures in future decades. In particular, they studied the effect on California’s mountain snowpack, the largest source of fresh water in the state, which refills thousands of water-storage reservoirs each spring via snowmelt.

The results show that by 2050, the median snowpack present on April 1 each year could be one-third smaller than the historical median, and by 2100 it could be two-thirds smaller. Such a dramatic loss of snowmelt would produce less runoff to refill reservoirs each summer, potentially making droughts an ever-present condition.

The research also shows that by 2100, there is only a 10percent chance that California mountains will see a snowpack equal to the median that accumulates today….

Cayan’s research into climate change would seem to support this direction. The research found that the Sierra Nevada, source of most of California’s crucial snowmelt, could warm by an average of 3degrees Celsius (or 5.4degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. This could mean less of the mountain range gets snowfall in winter but gets rain instead. That would result in less snowmelt to refill reservoirs, and a need for more ways to capture rainfall during winter….

DWR’s Cowin said a broader rethinking of California water systems is needed to account for climate change as well as population growth. The state’s population, at 38million, already exceeds all other Western states combined. By 2050, it is projected to increase 30percent, to about 50million people.

Serving all those people in a warmer future would mean changing the rulebook at every reservoir, along with increasing water supplies through conservation, wastewater recycling, groundwater storage and other measures.

Retrieved November 1, 2014 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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