Vulnerability of Water Resources to Global Climate Change in the Agricultural Midwest- Ecological, Economic, and Regulatory Aspects

by J. Wayland Eheart,
Edwin E. Herricks,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: North American Water and Environment Congress & Destructive Water


As climate changes, so will water resources. General climate change will alter the distribution of hydrometeorological events and will affect water use, in turn resulting in further alterations in streamflows and aquatic ecosystems. This paper discusses ongoing research to assess the vulnerability of linked ecological, economic, and regulatory systems to climate change in the central North American agricultural areas. The ecological analysis focuses on streamfiow, using habitat frequency analysis for fish. The economic analysis focuses on the effects of both actual and perceived rainfall changes on streamflow through the acquisition and use of agricultural irrigation systems. Decreases in mean precipitation will result in the increased adoption of such systems, and increases in precipitation variability will exacerbate this effect. However, because of its relatively high capital cost and relatively low operating cost, irrigation equipment, once purchased, whether because of actual or perceived precipitation changes, will be used whether or not such precipitation changes actually materialize, thus placing additional stresses on water resources.

Subject Headings: Water resources | Aquatic habitats | Climate change | Ecosystems | Economic factors | Irrigation water | Precipitation | Streamflow

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