$3.8 million project to help Nevada's resiliency drought

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Updated: 8/13/2014 1:29 pm
RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- Managing water in northern Nevada’s Truckee-Carson River System requires local communities to balance urban, agricultural and ecosystem needs, according to a 'Water for the Seasons' press release -- changes in historical climate trends are increasingly expected to make this balancing act more challenging. Because of this, a competitive grant totaling $3.8 million has been awarded to the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute (DRI).

This money will work toward integrating science and water policy research to identify the expected impacts of climate change and solutions for protecting valuable water resources throughout northern Nevada.

The “Water for the Seasons” project will focus on the Truckee-Carson River System as a model for snow-fed arid-land river systems across the American West. Funding includes $1.8 million awarded by the National Science Foundation to the University and $2 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to DRI and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Water supplies in these regions are dependent on the timing, duration and form of winter precipitation and spring run-off. Throughout much of the West, demand for these water supplies is increasing, and many are already stretched to their capacity. Recent climate extremes and trends – including continued drought, increased winter rain instead of snow, reduced annual snowpack, earlier spring runoffs, flash floods and higher temperatures – present challenges to agency water managers, local farmers and ranchers, urban developers and the general public. This project aims to identify new strategies for enhancing the resiliency of communities in northern Nevada to adapt to these challenges and changes.

An interdisciplinary research team with expertise in hydrology, climate science, environmental policy, resource economics, public policy and community outreach will work closely with the region’s diverse stakeholder communities to assess impacts of different drought scenarios and climate extremes; develop models of water supplies and demands resulting from those scenarios; and develop policy options to help stakeholders evaluate and meet challenges posed by warming temperatures and unpredictable water supplies.

“Our goal is to be proactive now so that the region can be better prepared to meet future water management challenges,” said Maureen McCarthy, interim director of the University’s Academy for the Environment and the project’s director. “Ultimately, we are looking for options that will protect our ecosystems, support economic development and enhance the livelihoods of our communities and agricultural producers.”

Sen. Harry Reid commented on the need for the project, “Nevada is seeing record high temperatures and exceptional drought conditions throughout the state. With the recent extreme weather trends, northern Nevada and the Truckee-Carson River System need the tools to better predict and protect their water supplies,” he said. “The framework that will be put in place by the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, will help Nevada deal with the ongoing drought and the impacts of climate change. There is a great need to better manage and conserve our limited water supplies, and I fully support the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture’s assistance, which will help empower northern Nevada to do so.”

McCarthy explained that a Stakeholder Advisory Group, led by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, will work closely with the research team and represent interests of tribal communities and municipalities; tribal, federal, state and local water managers; agriculture producers; state and regional economic developers; and federal, state, tribal and nongovernmental groups dedicated to ecosystems protection.

“The uniqueness of this project is the core role of stakeholder involvement right from the get-go,” she said. “We have over a dozen entities ready to partner with us. These are established relationships with longtime partners, who are very comfortable working with the University’s Cooperative Extension.”

More information on the “Water for the Seasons project will be available online at the University’s Academy for the Environment website, Environment.unr.edu/academy/.

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