Shrinking snowpack threatens state’s water

California’s water infrastructure to feel strain in coming decades

California’s winter snowpack is likely to continue decreasing significantly, stressing both the state’s drinking-water supply and agricultural-irrigation system over the next 30 years, a study finds.

Researchers from Stanford University analyzed future climate trends, and concluded that early snowpack melts will translate to less runoff water to irrigate the state’s crops when they need irrigation most during the spring. The team also hypothesized that early springtime flooding will strain dams and reservoirs before the water reaches cities in low-lying areas.

“The Western U.S. exhibits the strongest increases in the occurrence of extremely low snow years in response to global warming,” said Stanford climate-change scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, who led the study. “It also exhibits some of the strongest decreases in runoff that occurs during the growing season.”