U.S. Geological Survey used climate models to project future groundwater resources in Colorado River Basin

November 16, 2020

U.S. Geological Survey researchers used climate models to project divergent groundwater futures for the upper and lower Colorado River Basins.

Historical (1896-2019) precipitation and temperature data for the upper and lower Colorado River Basins were analyzed to better understand recent trends in climate data that may affect groundwater resources in the area. Historical data indicate multidecadal-scale cyclical patterns in precipitation in both the upper and lower basins.

Although upper basin precipitation had no statistical trend over the recent historical period, the lower basin had a weak negative trend over this period. Multidecadal-scale cyclical patterns in temperature also are observed in historical climate data in both the upper and lower basins, at least until the early 1970s.

Beginning at that time, both the upper and lower basins experienced strong, monotonic positive trends in temperature. Basic principles of hydrology indicate that periods of decreasing precipitation as well as increasing temperature would have a negative effect — in other words, a reduction in groundwater infiltration and, hence, reduced recharge of aquifer systems.

Click here to read the report.