Warming atmosphere and decrease in snowpack likely to reduce available surface water
Bend, OR – The preliminary findings of new climate change research suggest that within the next 20-25 years, there could be a significant reduction in flows in upper Tumalo Creek during the summer and fall months. Bend currently diverts surface water that historically would have flowed over Tumalo Falls. The preliminary research indicates that during the summer and fall months, there could be little or no water for Bend to divert for City use if Tumalo Falls is to be preserved.
LandWatch has worked with WaterWatch of Oregon to try to protect Tumalo Creek from reduced flows due to the City of Bend’s Surface Water Improvement Project (SWIP). The Forest Service refused to do a quantitative climate change analysis on Tumalo Creek as part of the SWIP permitting; instead it only offered up general statements about the risks. In response, LandWatch has hired hydrology experts to do the research and analysis that the Forest Service did not do. The final report is expected this spring.
While the preliminary results of the analysis show the long-term impacts of climate change on Oregon’s water resources, the effects of climate change are being felt now. Scientists say this year’s warmer weather and reduced snowpack are a precursor of what’s to come, including water shortage problems, drought, and more frequent wildfires.
“The City of Bend is spending $70M on infrastructure that could quickly become obsolete as a result of climate change. At the very least, this expenditure is risky and oversized for the likely available summer/fall water in the coming years,” said Paul Dewey, Executive Director of Central Oregon LandWatch. “We cannot afford to risk our precious public resources on a project that is likely to become unproductive.”
Dewey added, “Climate change poses extreme risks to our surface water supply. This new research reinforces the urgency to protect our water and wildlife from its effects,” added Dewey. “By protecting our irreplaceable natural resources like Tumalo Creek, we are also protecting the quality of life for future generations of Central Oregonians.”
On behalf of LandWatch and WaterWatch, the Crag Law Center is filing an appeal today with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to enforce the safeguards for Tumalo Creek’s instream flows and fisheries.