The goals of this joint U.S. Geological Survey, University of Hawaiʻi, University of Guam, University of Texas, and East-West Center study were to (1) provide basic understanding about water resources for U.S. Department of Defense installations on Guam and (2) assess the resulting effect of sea-level rise and a changing climate on freshwater availability, on the basis of historic information, sea-level rise projections, and global-climate model temperature and rainfall projections.
Downscaled regional climate models, informed by a multimodel ensemble of global climate models provided projections of future climate conditions for Guam.
These projected climate conditions provided input to surface-water and groundwater models developed for Guam’s hydrology. Guam’s water resources in a future climate condition (2080–99) are projected to diminish relative to the recent climate condition. Projected average temperature increases, and average rainfall decreases will lead to reduced streamflow in southern Guam and reduced groundwater recharge to the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer (NGLA). Projected average temperatures in southern Guam will increase about 5.8 °F (3.22 °C), overall rainfall will decrease about 7 percent, and streamflow will consequently decrease 18 percent in important areas of southern Guam. Similarly, across the NGLA, future groundwater recharge will be 19 percent less than estimated recharge from 2012. Reduced future streamflow will decrease water availability from the Fena Valley Reservoir; however, the reservoir is expected to be able to supply water at recent demand rates without lowering the reservoir level to the elevation of the water-supply intakes throughout the simulated period of a future climate. A twelve-year simulation indicates that the reservoir can supply about twice the 2018 demand without lowering the reservoir level to the water-supply intakes. By following mitigation strategies to increase reservoir water availability, the withdrawal rate can be increased by 1.7 percent if the water-supply intakes are lowered 5 ft, by 3.5 percent if the spillway height is raised 5 ft, and by 5.3 percent if both strategies are combined. Higher sea level and reduced future recharge will decrease water availability from the NGLA. An index of composite chloride concentration from production wells increases to 300 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for future climate conditions and at 2010 withdrawal rates, compared with 130 mg/L under historic climate conditions. Most of this increase is due to reduced recharge as higher (+3.2 ft) sea level only has a small role in increasing withdrawn water salinity. A redistributed withdrawal scenario in which the composite chloride concentration is 290 mg/L offers only slight improvement.
Should future droughts reduce recharge proportionally to the decreases observed during historic droughts, the composite concentration would be about 900 mg/L, and more than 70 percent of Guam’s production wells would produce water with a composite concentration greater than 500 mg/L. Potential mitigation strategies for increasing the potable yield of the NGLA in a future climate include reducing depths of deep production wells and reducing the withdrawal rates in selected wells projected to have higher chloride concentrations. Simulations show both strategies are effective in lowering the composite concentration of the withdrawn water.