Snow: The Real Water Supply for the Rio Grande Basin

TitleSnow: The Real Water Supply for the Rio Grande Basin
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsRango A.
JournalNew Mexico Journal of Science
Date PublishedAugust 2006
ARIS Log Number197232
KeywordsRio Grande, southwestern North America, water supply
AbstractThe Rio Grande basin in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico is an important drainage in southwestern North America, vital for water consumption by a rapidly growing population, irrigated agriculture, economic development, preservation of endangered species, and energy generation. The most important source of water in the Rio Grande drainage results from snowmelt in the mountains of the upper basin. The gap between water supply and water demand is continually increasing as the population increases, and long term climate change further will affect the amount and timing of streamflow. The criticality of these problems will continue unabated through the 21st Century. Planning to cope with these water management problems needs to move now from relying on projections derived from current storage in reservoirs to additionally incorporating new technologies for measurements and hydrological modeling to allow the development of likely scenarios in both the short and long term. Models that can accept and integrate all types of measurements need to be utilized. Such models exist and are ready to be used operationally. Examples are given of both daily flow forecasts for an entire snowmelt season in the basin as well as predictions of future changes in streamflow to be expected under conditions of climate change. These types of data are vital in deciding among various future options which include the determination of the cost of water, controls on industrial and domestic development, new water distribution and storage systems, and the implementation of water conservation measures.