Relating climatic attributes and water resources allocation: A study using surface water supply and soil moisture indices in the Snake River basin, Idaho

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Abstract

[1] Climate change forced by anthropogenic activities has been ongoing since at least the beginning of the industrial revolution. Part of the recent warming in the western United States has been attributed to anthropogenic climate change. This research seeks to answer the basic question of how declining streamflow, increasing temperatures, and fluctuation in precipitation have impacted water resource allocation in the Snake River Plain over the past 35 years (1971–2005). Understanding how changes in climatic attributes have historically impacted water allocation should help water managers better understand how projected climate change may influence allocation. Annual and monthly diversion trends from 62 locations in the Snake River Plain were compared to temperature and precipitation trends at 10 climate stations across the basin. We found a strong trend of declining annual surface water diversions across the study area. Of the 62 diversion points examined, 45 have highly significant decreasing annual diversion trends, while an additional 8 have significant decreasing trends. Despite the annual decline in surface water diversions, April diversions have increased at more than half of the diversion points, with 15 locations showing highly significant trends and an additional 17 showing significant increasing diversion trends. A comparison of diversions to the Surface Water Supply Index indicates that the decline in midseason and late season diversions is mostly caused by decreasing supply in the study period, while a comparison of diversions to Palmer's Z index and the Standardized Precipitation Index indicates that early season diversions are highly correlated to early season moisture anomalies.

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