A team of researchers came together recently at Utah State University to look for ways to try to predict water levels in advance of the Colorado River and this is important because the Colorado River Basin is a major water source for much of the western United States, including large parts of Utah, according to Dr Matt Yost, assistant professor and agro-climate extension specialist at USU.
On KVNU’s For the People program last week, Dr. Yost said having an understanding and knowing what those water levels will be years in advance has tremendous positive impacts. He said what this involves is predicting the future flow of a river based on current sea temperatures.
“It’s a unique relationship there and something we often don’t consider or think about that what happens in the ocean (regarding) temperatures above and weather above the ocean is linked to larger climate trends which also affect in a direct way the water supply and weather patterns over our region and our area,” he explained.
Dr. Yost said it’s a complicated process and one he may not fully understand. But he said knowing in advance what river levels might be has important ramifications for a variety of people, policy makers, water managers even down to the water user, the person who irrigates. Knowing in advance helps people to plan proactively.
“I like to think about it in the same way as economics. Last year, if we would have known that this year that COVID would happen that we would have a mass economic pressure and recession, what would you have done differently in 2019? There’s probably a variety of things you would have done to try to prepare for an economic downturn.”
Similarly, Dr. Yost said if we know that water supply levels will be low in the next year or the next two years, it helps to prepare for water shortages at multiple levels from policy to management of water to use of water.