Impacts of climate change on Southwestern working lands and water resources: a report from the inaugural year of the USDA Southwest climate hub

TitleImpacts of climate change on Southwestern working lands and water resources: a report from the inaugural year of the USDA Southwest climate hub
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsElias E, Rango A, Havstad K, Steele C
Conference Name2015 UCOWR / NIWR / CUAHSI Annual Conference
Date Published06/2015
Conference LocationHenderson, NV
ARIS Log Number321698
Abstract

In February 2014 the USDA established seven regional climate hubs to assist farmers, ranchers and foresters in adapting to the effects of climate change.  The SW region encompasses six states (including Hawaii) and provides highly diverse agricultural crops including cotton, stone fruit and grapes.  The SW relies on irrigation more heavily than any other in the US and water supplies are critical to meeting regional irrigation needs. In addition, seasonal and annual rainfall amounts dictate livestock numbers regional rangelands can support.  Projected future temperatures by mid-century indicate a 2 to 4°C average annual temperature increase across the region.  This increase will further limit presently scarce water resources by increasing regional evaporation and transpiration.  Models predict that drought and water competition will likely be a more frequent reality in future.    To help SW working land owners cope with the impacts of climate change, the Hub has established formal agreements with Cooperative Extension and hosted regional climate change workshops.  The Hub funded development of a climate change module for regional rural and urban schools.   Hub staff drafted a Vulnerability Assessment of SW crops, animal agriculture and forests to climate change.  Vulnerability to climate change is generally defined in terms of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity.  Given temperature increases and reduced winter chilling hours, certain crops will have likely have reduced yields while others, given adequate water, will be less effected.  Similarly, certain livestock and geographic regions are more vulnerable to projected climate change. Water is a critical component of agricultural vulnerability in the SW and results are presented from a hydrologic perspective.