Rising temperatures prompted by climate change will bring about increasing difficulty for New Mexico to meet its legal obligation to deliver water to downstream neighbors in the years ahead, according to a new federal study developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Sandia National Laboratory.

The study offers disturbing news to both New Mexico state officials who must legally guarantee a prescribed flow of water in the Rio Grande Basin will pass down to Texas each year, and to Texas water officials who are currently involved in litigation against New Mexico over water deliveries related to the Rio Grande Compact, a tri-state agreement between Colorado, New Mexico and Texas on how water from the river will be shared.

Representatives of the Bureau of Reclamation and Sandia Laboratory were on hand to discuss the new study at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History last week. The presentation, titled "Impacts of Climate Change on the Upper Rio Grande Basin: Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies," paints a dire picture for New Mexico's ability to deliver water in the future because of higher demands and reduced flows caused by higher rates of evaporation, smaller expected snow packs and other environmental developments caused by a warmer climate.

"Water supplies are diminishing while demand is becoming greater," said Sandia Laboratory hydrologist Jesse Roach, one of the study's authors.

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Roach said there is an increasing need to change water use strategies in order to prepare for climate-induced water shortages in the basin in the years ahead. He says scientists have been warning for years of coming changes in the environment that will result in water availability losses across the Southwest, and he further warned "those times have arrived."