News / USA

Severe Drought, Wildfires Threaten Water Resources

Zulima Palacio

Scientists say severe, prolonged drought and soaring temperatures were major factors in the wildfires that destroyed thousands of hectares of forest and woodlands in the western United States last year.  They predict those conditions might continue to threaten both the region's forests and its scarce water resources.

Now a team of scientists in New Mexico's Valles Caldera National Preserve is trying to restore the damaged forest land. They're also trying to find ways to conserve water in a region that climate change is making increasingly dry.

This is Valles Caldera. Actually, it's the giant mouth of a dormant super volcano that last erupted 40,000 years ago.  In the millennia since then, the terrain developed high-elevation forests, of  abundant water sources and a rich ecosystem.  Today it's a national preserve.

But last year, over 32,000 hectares of forest in Valles Caldera, as well as in several other states of the American southwest, were consumed by the worst wild fires in a century.   

"This burned 43,000 acres [17,000 hectares] in 14 hours. To give you a kind of visual on that, a football field with both end zones and bench areas, burns in 2 seconds," noted Bob Parmenter, chief scientist at Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Parmenter says there are several reasons for that kind of fire: shorter winters with less snow pack along the Rocky Mountains, where many rivers in the American west originate, as well as longer and warmer summers with less rain.  

David Brown, a regional climate director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says drought is putting heavy stress on water resources.

"One of the most severe droughts in the last 100 years is playing out right now in the southwest," said Brown.

As a result, more than a hundred scientists are working in Valles Caldera in a bid to restore ecological balance to the region, through reforestation and water conservation.

The challenges are huge.  A study by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed a 30 to 60 percent decline in the Rocky Mountain snow pack. Gregory Pederson, a climate scientist for USGS, participated in the study.

"All the water resources we need to support the societies and ecosystems comes primarily from snow.  For this neck of the world, most of the water comes from snow pack, 60 to 80 percent," said Pederson.

Data from the last several decades indicate that rivers like the Jemez River have lost 40 percent of their waters.

Trees play an important role in water preservation, says Bob Parmenter of the Valles Caldera National Preserve:

"The conservative estimate here is that the shading alone increases snow water storage up to 22 percent.  As we manage this forest, we can hopefully keep water in the streams as the climate continues to change," added Parmenter.

Parmenter and his team say restoring the forest and the ecosystem in these mountains will help ensure that the region's water resources will survive future droughts and climate change.

The team has begun thinning this forest so wildfires become less likely.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid