From: Associated Press
Published September 19, 2007 11:00 AM

Scientist warns of climate change impact

LAS CRUCES, N.M.—Climate change could mean higher temperatures, less winter precipitation and less spring runoff for the Southwest, a climatologist says.

Temperatures in New Mexico could increase by a few degrees by the end of this century, said Gregg Garfin, project manager of the Climate Assessment Project for the Southwest at the University of Arizona.

"It seems very likely that temperatures will continue to increase and probably more rapidly than we've seen in the past," he said Monday.

The warmer weather will cause snowpack to melt earlier each year, and there is a chance less snow will fall, Garfin said. Earlier snowpack melts will mean water supplies will be more vulnerable to evaporation because water will sit longer in reservoirs before it is used, he said during a global warming workshop forum in Las Cruces.

The forum, sponsored in part by the state engineer's office, was the first of five planned across New Mexico.

Gary Esslinger, manager for the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, said he has heard about the impacts of climate change at other water workshops, so Monday's presentation was no surprise.

"It's a concern for agriculture, just the whole idea of climate change," he said.

Farmers in southern New Mexico rely on runoff flowing into the Rio Grande for irrigation each summer.

For farmers, Esslinger said the predictions are a "triple threat" because the water supply will shrink, higher temperatures

will increase the water needed for a plant to survive and farmers will rely more heavily on groundwater, which will deplete aquifers.

Michael Nivison, an Otero County commissioner and Cloudcroft administrator, said his community has experienced water shortages and has been forced to truck in water.

"I think that we're behind the curve, but it's excellent to have somebody pointing out the issues that pertain to water," he said. "Until you run out of water, you don't realize what kind of problems you're facing."


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