The New Normal Nevada scientists and American Indian tribal members talk climate change realities at AAAS

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RENO, NV – Despite an above average snowpack and several months of wet weather, drought and changing climate conditions continue to plague farmers and ranchers across Nevada and other western states.
For American Indian communities in Northern Nevada, the consequences of a changing ecosystem are severe and will impact generations to come, according to new research and outreach presented today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The “Climate, Water, and the American Indian Farmer” symposium highlighted work underway on two significant research and public outreach projects led by the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and other institutions.

Led by Maureen McCarthy, Ph.D., Tahoe and Great Basin Research Director at the University of Nevada, Reno, the symposium explored the impacts of climate change, Indian land tenure and water rights, and changes in land use on American Indian communities dependent on farming, ranching, and sustaining cultural and natural resources.
“American Indian tribes currently possess some of the most senior water rights available,” McCarthy explained. “Yet extreme, ongoing droughts in our region combined with changes in winter precipitation timing and form are complicating the allocation and use of water in the West and stimulating Tribes, States, and the Federal Government to negotiate equitable and sustainable water right settlements to ensure traditional and production agricultural practices are available to future generations.

“These issues are complex and transcend ecological and sociopolitical boundaries. Knowledge generated and shared through this program will build capacity among tribal and non-tribal organizations to respond to a changing climate.”

Water for the Seasons Project Background: The “Water for the Seasons” project focuses on the Truckee-Carson River System as a model for snow-fed arid-land river systems across the American West. Researchers are integrating science and water policy research with extensive community outreach to identify the expected impacts of climate change and solutions for protecting valuable water resources throughout Northern Nevada.

Greg Pohll, Ph.D., a DRI research professor of hydrology and hydrogeology, is co-leading the climate and water supplies modeling portion of the project. Pohll, who has studied and modeled snow-fed arid-land river systems for nearly 20 years, is focusing on the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe Basin system with three other DRI surface and groundwater experts. The team is developing state-of-the-art computer models to predict how rivers and groundwater in the West are responding to prolonged droughts.

For more information about “Water for the Seasons” visit – http://waterfortheseasons.com

Native Waters for Arid Lands Project Background: The “The Native Waters on Arid Lands” project is working directly with tribal members to identify challenges to agriculture from diverse and competing demands for water. Researchers and Extension experts, in partnership with Native American scholars and community leaders from over a dozen tribes in the American Southwest, are integrating western science and traditional knowledge to analyze how warming temperatures and reduced water supplies impact crop and livestock production and fish, wildlife, and ecological abundance.

The five-year program brings together fculty and students from University of Nevada, Reno, Desert Resarch Institute, University of Arizona and Utah State University and the First Americans (1994) Land-Grant Consortium (FALCON), U.S. Geological Survey; and Ohio University.

Beverly Ramsey, Ph.D., executive director of the DRI’s Earth and Ecosystem Sciences division, is leading the important traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) research portion of the multi-year project. DRI faculty are also providing advanced analytics and database stewardship; as well as guiding the integration of water rights policy research, lead by Derek Kauneckis, Ph.D., an DRI affiliate faculty member and associate professor with Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, with TEK results and paleoecological records to identify potential enhancements in community resilience.

For more information about “Native Waters on Arid Lands” visit – http://nativewaters-aridlands.com

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