Rising Temperatures May Decrease Salt Lake City Water Supply

The annual flow of streams supplying water to Salt Lake City, Utah, may decline by an average of 3.8 percent for every degree Fahrenheit of warming in the region, according to research published in the Earth Interactions journal.

Warmer temperatures may cause more of the region’s precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow, which leads to earlier runoff and less water in creeks, according to the report authored by experts from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and other organizations.

“We are using the findings of this sensitivity analysis to better understand the range of impacts we might experience under climate change scenarios,” Laura Briefer, a co-author of the study and water manager at the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, said in a statement today.

Temperatures in northern Utah have already risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, the report showed. A 5 degree increase in temperature would need to be offset by a 10 percent annual increase in precipitation, the study said.

The research team also included experts from the University of Utah and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory.

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