New Study Reveals Impacts of Irrigation and Climate Change on Western Watersheds

7
New Study Reveals Impacts of Irrigation and Climate Change on Western Watersheds


DRI’s Justin Huntington coauthored the new study, led by researchers at the University of Montana and the Montana Climate Office, which published mid-December in the Nature Journal Communications Earth and Environment.

The following is the full press release shared by the University of Montana.

MISSOULA – In a groundbreaking study that can reshape our understanding and management of water resources in the Western United States, David Ketchum, a 2023 graduate of the University of Montana systems ecology Ph.D. program, has unveiled a 35-year analysis quantifying the interconnected impacts of climate change and irrigation on surface water flows.

The study, recently published in Nature Communications Earth and Environment, describes the relative impact that climate change and irrigation intensification is having on hundreds of watersheds in the Western United States.

“These findings underscore the importance of addressing the competing uses for water and the ecological trade-offs associated with heavy water use,” Ketchum said.

Trained as a hydrologist in New Mexico, Ketchum has dedicated his career to understanding water supply challenges, particularly in Montana and the broader Western United States. In 2017, he was recruited by Kelsey Jencso, the W.A. Franke Endowed Professor of Watershed Hydrology and Montana’s state climatologist, to join the UM BRIDGES fellowship to work on advancing methods used to estimate the water usage of agriculture through irrigation. Ketchum is now a hydrologist with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

He and his team conducted research across 221 basins in the Colorado, Columbia and Missouri river systems, challenging existing notions that changes in streamflow are solely attributed to a warming climate. The study reveals that irrigation practices play a crucial role and often surpass climate-induced changes in altering water flows.

 Leveraging a machine learning model, researchers supplied tens of thousands of data points derived from irrigated fields. The model, enhanced with advanced algorithms from NASA, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the United States. Geological Survey, analyzed high-resolution satellite data spanning 1986 to 2021, revealing an evolving landscape of irrigation expansion in the Western United States. This innovative approach allowed the team to distinguish between the impacts of climate change and human activities on streamflow. 

“This first-of-a-kind study ascertains both climate change and irrigation impacts on streamflow across the Western United States,” Jencso said. “It reveals that irrigation can have both positive and negative impacts, serving as a storage mechanism to counter climate-induced streamflow declines in some cases.”

Key findings from the study include altered flows beyond climate change, increased irrigation water use, seasonal flow impacts and basin-specific sustainability classifications.

“This information gives us an idea of how we might manipulate irrigation systems to mitigate stream flow impacts,” Ketchum said. “It represents a starting point to modify our irrigation practices and address the negative impacts of climate change on our water supply.”

He said the study holds significance for large-scale water resource management and serves as a valuable tool for farmers, ranchers and policymakers. The “irrigation efficiency paradox” is a notable aspect, where modern and efficient irrigation systems – while considered water-saving per field – may result in a net increase in water usage at the basin scale.

For farmers and ranchers, this research provides valuable insights into how irrigation systems can be manipulated to mitigate negative impacts on stream flow, he said. By comparing different irrigation types and systems, the study suggests ways to incentivize policy changes for sustainable water management.

Ketchum emphasized the importance of the study’s large-scale approach: “Every place is different, and depending on the unique characteristics of each watershed, our paper implies you can intelligently develop irrigation to minimize impacts on stream level and other water users.”

###

Contact: Elizabeth Harrison, director of communications, W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation, 917-656-9773, elizabeth.harrison@mso.umt.edu.


Disasters Expo USA, is proud to be supported by Inergency for their next upcoming edition on March 6th & 7th 2024!

The leading event mitigating the world’s most costly disasters is returning to the Miami Beach

Convention Center and we want you to join us at the industry’s central platform for emergency management professionals.
Disasters Expo USA is proud to provide a central platform for the industry to connect and
engage with the industry’s leading professionals to better prepare, protect, prevent, respond
and recover from the disasters of today.
Hosting a dedicated platform for the convergence of disaster risk reduction, the keynote line up for Disasters Expo USA 2024 will provide an insight into successful case studies and
programs to accurately prepare for disasters. Featuring sessions from the likes of The Federal Emergency Management Agency,
NASA, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, TSA and several more this event is certainly providing you with the knowledge
required to prepare, respond and recover to disasters.
With over 50 hours worth of unmissable content, exciting new features such as their Disaster
Resilience Roundtable, Emergency Response Live, an Immersive Hurricane Simulation and
much more over just two days, you are guaranteed to gain an all-encompassing insight into
the industry to tackle the challenges of disasters.
By uniting global disaster risk management experts, well experienced emergency
responders and the leading innovators from the world, the event is the hub of the solutions
that provide attendees with tools that they can use to protect the communities and mitigate
the damage from disasters.
Tickets for the event are $119, but we have been given the promo code: HUGI100 that will
enable you to attend the event for FREE!

So don’t miss out and register today: https://shorturl.at/aikrW

And in case you missed it, here is our ultimate road trip playlist is the perfect mix of podcasts, and hidden gems that will keep you energized for the entire journey

-

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More