Path Home Shows 2009 Show Archive October 2009 Show 0943 Interview with Gary McManus and Ken Crawford - Water and Climate

Interview with Gary McManus and Ken Crawford - Water and Climate

We visit with Ken Crawford and Gary McManus from the Oklahoma Climatological Survey about the impact our climate could have on future water supplies.
Interview with Gary McManus and Ken Crawford - Water and Climate

Gary McManus and Ken Crawford

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Oklahoma Water Resources Board

Show Dates

Show 0943: Interview with Gary McManus and Ken Crawford - Water and Climate

Air date: October 25, 2009



Rob:  Nothing has more of an impact on water supplies in Oklahoma than our wild weather and state officials warn climate change could impact future water supplies.

Earlier, I visited with Ken Crawford and Gary McManus from Oklahoma’s Climatological Survey.

Rob:  Dr Crawford, how tenuous are our water supplies?

Ken Crawford:  From the vantage point of the whole world, we’re living in a very tenuous era of human civilization.  I think that the world community at large is on the precipice of natural disasters caused by the lack of available fresh water.

Rob:  Dr McManus, what type of impact could climate change have on such a forecast?

Gary McManus:  Well first we have to realize that the areas where there are, say deserts, and rainy, rainy seasons, wet, wet, wet periods, areas of rain forest, these are all controlled by our large scale weather patterns.  Air goes up in certain areas of the globe, air comes down.  So where the air comes down, that’s where our deserts are.  So when we have climate change, and we start changing these large scale air patterns, that will dictate changes in our precipitation patterns.

Rob:  Is it fair to say that we shouldn’t judge our next fifty years by our past fifty years in terms of water supply and our weather?

McManus:  That’s exactly the truth.  What’s happened in the past, you can’t simply extrapolate towards the future.  Our last thirty years, as Dr Crawford said, have been one of the wettest periods in Oklahoma history, at least our recorded history.  You probably shouldn’t expect that to continue just the way it has been.

Crawford:  And the reason that this is such a complex problem that we must wrestle with is our water use patterns, per person, have gone up by a factor of four since I was a young person.  In Norman, Oklahoma, in the 60s, we were using about thirty-five to forty gallons of water per day, on average, as a citizen.  Today that use is up around one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty gallons of water per day per citizen.  So, we’re demanding more of our water resources.

Rob:  And why is that?  I mean, we have low flow toilets, we have shower heads that use less water, it seems like we would be using less water these days.

Crawford:  When I was younger, I know of very few people that had sprinkler systems that irrigated their yards.  Today, I know hundreds of people that irrigate their yards.  I’m not saying that that’s bad.  I’m just saying that has contributed to our increase.

Rob:  So what do we do?

Crawford:  I think we have to educate our young people to be aware that there is not an endless supply of this commodity.  We must get them to help lead the way to changing the way we use our most precious of resources.  Otherwise, a climate that warms is destined to bring us these mega droughts.  And mega droughts will be very, very expensive.

McManus:  Droughts of that nature are what we would like to say are society changers.  Once you have a drought like that, things change.  The drought of the 1930s, the dustbowl drought, changed the way we conserve the land.  The 1950s drought didn’t have the dustbowl effects that we saw in the 30s due to the changes we made because of the 30s.  So, we haven’t had a drought that’s changed our society in, you know, forty, fifty years.  So, the next drought will be, as I said, a shock to the system.