Several times during the severe drought of 2010-2015, communities within the jurisdictional territories of the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma were precariously close to running out of water. According to previous studies, temperatures are expected to continue to rise throughout the southern states, and droughts are predicted to be longer and more severe. Even small changes to a river’s water flow regime may have unanticipated consequences on the water resources, especially for communities that rely on direct river diversions to supply their needs. A suitable water availability model is a key tool needed to help communities investigate where vulnerabilities in water resources may occur and the extent of the problem.
The Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma have previous and ongoing studies to evaluate the impacts of climate change on river flows and are currently identifying specific communities that may be at risk due to the changing climate, which will help prioritize mitigation and adaptation activities. However, these studies focus on the Red River Basin and do not include the northern portions of the Chickasaw Nation’s jurisdictional area, which lies within the Canadian and Arkansas River Basins.
The goal of this project is to expand upon these existing studies to identify communities vulnerable to surface water supply shortages across Southeastern Oklahoma and quantify the gap in the water demand-supply curve that can be expected in the near future. More specifically, the project will: 1) generate a range of plausible future river flows using hydrologic models containing nine or more different climate change projections; 2) estimate natural flows across the Canadian and Arkansas River Basins, which will be used in a water availability model to produce realistic flows across climate change scenarios; and 3) develop a RiverWare model that will provide water planners and decision-makers the tools necessary to study water needs and identify vulnerable communities in the Canadian and Arkansas River Basins at a scale relevant for local decision makers.
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“Canadian River in North Park, Colorado; USFWS”