Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

Group: Global warming threatens river

September 22, 2005

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— An environmental group said Wednesday that a data analysis shows global warming is affecting the Missouri River basin, threatening the state's water supply.

The Missouri Public Interest Research Group touted a study conducted by the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. The study looked at effects on several river basins, including the Missouri River basin.

The Missouri River supplies water to 10 states, including Kansas and Missouri.

The study found that the temperature in the Missouri River basin for 2000-04 was the hottest of the past 110 years, about 1.5 degrees warmer than the historical average.

Among other things, warmer temperatures worsen a drought's effects, the study found.

Higher temperatures also mean less snow falling and melting into the river and being available for use in Missouri, the study said. Snowpack levels were below average in the Missouri River basin for 14 of the past 16 years, the study found.

"Global warming is already threatening our water supply," said Ellen Treimel, a field organizer for the research group. "Warmer winters and less snow means there will be less water coming down to us in Missouri."

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources said it hadn't studied the issue to judge whether the report's findings were accurate but agreed that conserving water is important.

"We share the goal of wise water usage and water conservation," spokesman Larry Archer said.

Less available water will lead to increased competition for it, resulting in higher prices for consumers to get water, said Chris Hayday, an energy activist with the state chapter of the Sierra Club. People also could experience secondary effects, such as paying more for food or clothing as farmers struggle to get needed water for crops, he said.

The drought much of Missouri experienced this summer could be just a harbinger of things to come, Treimel said. While a lack of rainfall caused the problem, less snow coming down the river exacerbated the effects, she said.

She and Hayday said the study was a wake-up call and urged government officials, in Missouri and nationally, to change policies to ease the problem.

Chief among their remedies is reducing emissions by power plants and vehicles. Enacting tougher fuel-efficiency standards is one answer, along with using more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, Hayday said.

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