- Joint Program Reprint
- Journal Article
Climate change impacts on water resources in the United States are likely to be far-reaching and substantial because the water is integral to climate, and the water sector spans many parts of the economy. This paper estimates impacts and damages from five water resource-related models addressing runoff, drought risk, economics of water supply/demand, water stress, and flooding damages. The models differ in the water system assessed, spatial scale, and unit of assessment, but together provide a quantitative and descriptive richness in characterizing water sector effects that no single model can capture. The results, driven by a consistent set of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and climate scenarios, examine uncertainty from emissions, climate sensitivity, and climate model selection. While calculating the net impact of climate change on the water sector as a whole may be impractical, broad conclusions can be drawn regarding patterns of change and benefits of GHG mitigation. Four key findings emerge: 1) GHG mitigation substantially reduces hydro-climatic impacts on the water sector; 2) GHG mitigation provides substantial national economic benefits in water resources related sectors; 3) the models show a strong signal of wetting for the Eastern US and a strong signal of drying in the Southwest; and 4) unmanaged hydrologic systems impacts show strong correlation with the change in magnitude and direction of precipitation and temperature from climate models, but managed water resource systems and regional economic systems show lower correlation with changes in climate variables due to non-linearities created by water infrastructure and the socio-economic changes in non-climate driven water demand.