Climate change and drought to be highlighted at Sierra water group’s Auburn meeting

UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling, state Department of Water Resources, Scripps Institution experts due to speak
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Some of the top experts in water and the impact of climate change will gather in Auburn on March 15 for a program on drought ramifications.

They’ll be featured speakers at a meeting of the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association.

John Kingsbury, executive director of the association, said the program – put on jointly by Mountain Counties and the statewide Association of California Water Agencies – comes at a time when discussions are ongoing on how to improve water supplies in the delta region.

“The Sierra Nevada mountain range is the largest natural winter storage facility but has been largely left out of the conversation,” Kingsbury said. “We’re trying to focus more on investments in watershed health. Catastrophic wildfire presents the greatest threat but we can manage our forests to prevent that disaster.”

With warming trends and the potential for long-term droughts, Kingsbury said the goal is to create awareness.

“We are seeing warm weather, wildfires, diminishing snowpacks and droughts,” Kingsbury said. “With this workshop, we’ll be able to draw attention to the Sierra Nevada mountain range.”

During the 2010 and 2011 winter storm season, the Sierra experienced more rain than it could capture and that water ended up running out to the Pacific Ocean, Kingsbury said.

“Statistics are showing that the warming landscape is changing and we need to take a look at what the risk of doing nothing is,” he said.

One of the speakers will be John Kleppe, a professor emeritus with the University of Nevada, Reno College of Engineering. Kleppe will present his findings on a study he made of tree rings from ancient trees submerged for centuries in Fallen Leaf Lake showing a super drought had occurred in the past. His topic will be “Will it happen again? Will we be ready?”

Other speakers include James Famigliette, UC Irvine Earth System Science professor and director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling, and Michael Anderson, state climatologist with the California Department of Water Resources Division of Flood Management.

“This is a dynamite group,” Kingsbury said.

The program will run from 10 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. March 15 at the Ridge Golf Course and Event Center, 2020 Golf Course Road, North Auburn. Cost is $30 and includes lunch. Kingsbury can be contacted for more information at (530) 957-7879. Registration deadline is March 8, or until space is full. Onsite registration is $35, as space permits.

Lisa Lien-Mager, the state water association spokeswoman, said that one of the chief concerns for the water industry is how systems might have to adopt.

“These issues are going to continue to be important for California water managers,” Lien-Mager said.