Seven Projects in Four States Receive $1.2 Million in WaterSMART Grants to Better Manage Water Resources in a Changing Climate

Projects Selected in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah

Media Contact: Peter Soeth, 303-445-3615

For Release: July 26, 2011

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor has announced the selection of seven applied science projects to receive $1.2 million funding for the enhancement of water resource management in a changing climate. Facilitating the development of new tools that allow better management of water resources is one of the strategies of the Department of the Interior's WaterSMART Program which paves the way to a sustainable water future. This funding will be leveraged to fund over $2.7 million in applied science projects in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.

"The competition is growing for water used by agriculture, municipalities, the energy sector and the environment," Commissioner Connor said. "Growing demand for water will continue with the impacts exacerbated by climate change. At Reclamation, the WaterSMART program and grants such as these enhance the knowledge and tools available to water resource managers so they can use water more efficiently and meet future demands."

These seven projects were selected through a competitive process and are being funded through WaterSMART's Grants to develop climate analysis tools. The selected projects are:

  • Desert Research Institute in Nevada will receive $199,761 for the evaluation of evapotranspiration and irrigation water requirements in a changing climate.
  • Southern Nevada Water Authority will receive $188,410 to enhance resource management of the Colorado River through understanding changes to water quality and sediment transport in Lake Mead.
  • Desert Research Institute in Nevada will receive $126,014 to develop and evaluate regional climate downscaling techniques that will benefit understanding future surface and groundwater supplies.
  • Southern Nevada Water Authority will receive $200,000 to evaluate potential future additional utilization of water resources in the eastern great basin.
  • Utah State University will receive $141,033 to provide more accurate projections of seasonal precipitation cycles within the upper Colorado River basin.
  • University of California at Irvine will receive $200,000 to utilize novel statistical techniques to quantify the uncertainty associated with the current suite of global climate models.
  • University of Arizona will receive $200,000 to do a two-phase project where they will use tree-ring data to reconstruct the historical flows of the Klamath and San Joaquin Rivers and update the reconstructed flows of the Sacramento River. The researchers will then construct a database and incorporate the tree-ring data and flow reconstruction into a climatological framework.

These projects will help inform Reclamation activities under the SECURE Water Act and future reports such as the SECURE Water Act Report released on April 25. The projects that were selected help fill the information gaps outlined in the joint Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Report, Addressing Climate Change in Long-Term Water Resources Planning and Management: User Needs for Improving Tools and Information published in January 2011.

The results of these projects will be integrated with ongoing activities at the Climate Science Centers, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments - all agencies working together with Reclamation. The agencies jointly support the development of new research and science to manage resources in a sustainable manner.

The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation and sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands. The SMART in WaterSMART stands for "Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow." Since its establishment in 2010, the WaterSMART Program has provided more than $80 million in all competitively awarded funding to non-federal partners, including tribes, water districts and universities.

To learn more about WaterSMART, please visit

Grants to Develop Climate Analysis Tools

Desert Research Institute, Developing Historical and Future Agricultural Evapotranspiration and Irrigation Water Requirement
Reclamation Funding: $199,761; Total Project Cost: $399,541

The Desert Research Institute will study the use of climate information to estimate evapotranspiration and irrigation water requirements. Specifically, the project will address the historical uncertainties associated with evapotranspiration models by using a consistent approach to provide information on how downscaling from global climate models may influence assessments of future evapotranspiration and irrigation water requirements throughout the 17 western states. The results of this project will benefit Reclamation's operations and long-term planning activities in response to future climate change by providing suggestions on improvements of current methods and tools. The proposed project will also complement the fiscal year 2011 West-Wide Climate Risk Assessment activity to assess future agricultural evapotranspiration in the eight major Reclamation river basins identified within the SECURE Water Act.

Southern Nevada Water Authority, Impacts of Climate Change on Water Quality and Sediment Transport in Lake Mead
Reclamation Funding: $188,410; Total Project Cost: $378,241

The Southern Nevada Water Authority will use previously developed water quality models in examining the impacts of climate change on the water quality of Lake Mead and the San Vicente Reservoir and the sediment transport within Lake Mead. Sediment transport and water quality may impact water management operations and contribute to drinking water concerns, invasive species concerns, international water quality issues, impacts to recreation and endangered species concerns (Razorback Sucker). The results of this project will inform water resource managers that rely on Lake Mead and the Colorado River of what future water quality conditions may be under a range of climate change scenarios. The proposed project will facilitate practical water management decision-making and provide an assessment framework for water quality and sediment impacts from climate change in other reservoirs throughout the western United States.

Desert Research Institute, Developing and Evaluation of Regional Climate Downscaling Techniques in Forcing a Coupled Hydro Model
Reclamation Funding: $126,014; Total Project Cost: $252,026

The Desert Research Institute will build upon Reclamation's previously developed Bias Corrected Spatially Downscaled data, available since 2007, to evaluate new methodologies for utilizing global climate model results at spatial scales that are relevant to water resources management. The interaction between surface water and groundwater is currently a major uncertainty in developing future projections of water supply in river basins. The proposed project will utilize a hybrid approach of dynamical and statistical downscaling to develop surface and groundwater projections for a portion of the Lake Tahoe basin. Understanding the differences in results between surface water projections and surface and groundwater projections will better inform future projections within the Basin Study Program and SECURE Water Act reporting that have relied only upon surface water projections.

Southern Nevada Water Authority, Impacts of a Changing Climate on Water Resources in the Eastern Great Basin
Reclamation Funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $616,286

Southern Nevada Water Authority will evaluate groundwater and surface water interactions within the Cleve Creek Watershed in Spring Valley, Nev. Specifically, it will blend paleoclimate, through a new tree ring reconstruction tool termed tree ring interpolation model and global climate models climate projection information, to develop plausible future climate scenarios. The project includes coordination with the Desert Research Institute as well as the U.S. Geological Survey and the global climate model will leverage the Bias Corrected Spatially Downscaled archive, developed with Reclamation participation in 2007.

Utah State University, Effective Assessments for Climate Uncertainties in Dynamical Downscaling over the Colorado Regions
Reclamation Funding: $141,033; Total Project Cost: $284,721

Utah State University will provide more accurate projections of seasonal precipitation cycles within the upper Colorado River basin. This project will improve climate information for the upper Colorado River basin by implementing two competing methods for translating global climate models: statistical and dynamical downscaling. This project will statistically correct a global climate model and then dynamically downscale it to the basin. Results of the project will be compared to an ongoing federal activity related to dynamical downscaling known as the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program and is potentially transferable to the entire United States. The information developed through the project will also inform similar ongoing activities through Reclamation's Research and Development Office and will reduce uncertainties of climate projections used within the WaterSMART Basin Study Program.

University of California, Irvine, Quantifying Climate Projections Uncertainty Using a Non-Gaussian Model and an Adaptive Weighting Ensemble Algorithm
Reclamation Funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $400,000

The Regents of the University of California at Irvine will utilize novel statistical techniques to quantify the uncertainty associated with the current suite of global climate models. The project will move beyond many criticisms that the current sets of climate projections are too similar to be considered independent samples by abandoning the assumption that error is distributed evenly across all factors. Instead, this project will utilize a non-Gaussian model, which assumes that error is weighted by individual factors. This approach will allow the University to quantify future climate uncertainty more readily and provide a framework for making statements along the lines of "there is a 20% chance that temperature will increase by up to 4 degrees in the next 50 years." The project will then utilize a global hydrological model to assess of the potential of climate change impacts on water supplies and flood and drought frequency at the global scale.

University of Arizona, Tree-Ring Reconstructions of Streamflow: Using Analogues from the Past for Water Resource Decision Making in California
Reclamation Funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $460,962

The University of Arizona will provide new and updated climate information through a two-phased project focused on tree ring data. In the first phase, the project will reconstruct historical river flows on the Klamath and San Joaquin Rivers and will update the reconstruction for the Sacramento River. In the second phase of the project, the University will construct a database that will put tree ring data and flow reconstructions into a climatological framework. The framework will tie annual flows with the corresponding past and projected climate information available for that time period. This type of information has proven invaluable for the Colorado River and has supported the development of the 2008 EIS Shortage criteria. Climate information developed by this project will improve decision-making by water managers. low.

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Relevant Link:

WaterSMART Program