There Will Be Water, But Fish Will Die

What water availability can we expect come the end of this century? According to findings by the Willamette Water 2100 Project, climate change and growth in population and income would be the key components for changing our water needs. Our region’s 11 water storage reservoirs provide relief during times when summers are drier, and winters may be wetter and summers drier necessitating the use of those reservoirs.

Urban expansion into irrigated farmlands may drive a decline in water use, but most of the concern does not lie with the availability of water with current reservoirs and water treatment operations. With treated water being returned to the river at a warmer temperature, the cold-water fish species will be largely and negatively impacted. The challenge will then be to manage the stream temperature for cold-water fish.

Many of the scientists involved with the Willamette Water 2100 project came together on Dec. 4 to share the findings of a six-year, $4.3 million examination designed to determine the availability of water in the Willamette River Basin through the year 2100. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Oregon State University Institute for Water and Watersheds; they collaborated with the University of Oregon, Portland State University, and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Using a computer model called Envision, members of the project incorporate data from other models such as rising temperatures, population and income growth, water supply and demand and many others, and integrate hydrological, ecological, and economic representations so decisions can be addressed in public policy and resource management for the future.

By Kaitlin Gomez

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