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Evaluating Enhanced Reservoir Evaporation Losses From CMIP6-Based Future Projections in the Contiguous United States

Publication Type
Journal Name
Earth's Future
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 19

Enhanced reservoir evaporation has become an emerging concern regarding water loss, especially when compounded with the ever-increasing water demand. In this study, we evaluated the evaporation rates and losses for 678 major reservoirs (representing nearly 90% of total storage capacity) in the Contiguous United States over historical baseline (1980–2019), near-term (2020–2039), and mid-term (2040–2059) future periods. The evaporation rate was estimated using the Lake Evaporation Model (LEM), an advanced lake evaporation model that addresses both heat storage and fetch effects, driven by multi-ensemble downscaled Coupled Model Intercomparison Projects 6 (CMIP6) projections under the SSP585 emission scenario. The results project that the evaporation loss may increase by 2.5 × 107 m3/yr through the research period (1980–2059). Among all regions, the Rio Grande is projected to have the largest increasing rate in the near-term and mid-term future, with values of 7.11% of 10.25%, respectively. At the seasonal scale, the most significant increase in the evaporation rate is projected during the fall. The evaporation is projected to increase faster than the streamflow over many of the regions in the southwestern US during the summer/fall, suggesting that the shortage of water will be further exacerbated. The climate models contribute the most to the variance, as compared to the other components related to the projection of evaporation losses (e.g., hydrological model, downscaling method, and historical meteorological data set). These findings demonstrate the need to consider accelerated water loss through open water evaporation in long-term water resources planning across various spatiotemporal scales.