Climate Change and Natural Resources

Water Quality

Water quality is also at issue as the climate changes. Land-use and agricultural management practices heavily affect water quality. Climate changes that alter patterns in land-use and agriculture will also likely affect water quality as a result.

Should spring run-off of the mountain snowpack continue to arrive earlier, stream water quality could be affected as the timing of flushed sediments changes. Seasonal flooding also carries a threat that contaminants will be washed into streams where they will be deposited with sediment.

Water quality always suffers as late-summer streamflows are reduced. Non-point sourced pollutions are exacerbated during low flow periods. Water temperatures invariably rise during late-summer shortages. Levels of dissolved oxygen become reduced and algae blooms become more common.

Longer term withdrawal of groundwater sources can also harm water quality. Groundwater is the base flow for many streams and rivers. Lowered groundwater levels can reduce seasonal streamflows, particularly in smaller streams. Wetlands can also be affected and water quality and quantity of prairie pot-holes is a particular concern.