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Who we are, what we do

WWA conducts innovative research in partnership with decision makers in the Rocky Mountain West, helping them make the best use of science to manage for climate impacts. WWA is a program of the University of Colorado Boulder and is part of the NOAA RISA (Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments) network.

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Intermountain West Climate Dashboard

29 climate and water information graphics for our region - 12 are updated daily

Most recent Briefing:
May 10

WWA Webinar Series

In 2012, WWA began a series of webinars describing recent and ongoing research by WWA team members. The Webinar Series page offers links to presentations and audio/video from past webinars.

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Recent WWA Publications

The role of U.S. states in facilitating effective water governance under stress and change

April 2016


Worldwide water governance failures undermine effective water management under uncertainty and change. Overcoming these failures requires employing more adaptive, resilient water management approaches; yet, while scholars have advance theory of what adaptive, resilient approaches should be, there is little empirical evidence to support those normative propositions. To fill this gap, Kirchhoff and Dilling reviewed the literature to derive theorized characteristics of adaptive, resilient water governance including knowledge generation and use, participation, clear rules for water use, and incorporating nonstationarity. Read the paper here.

Kirchhoff, C. and L. Dilling, 2016. Water Resources Research, Published April 17.

High-resolution climate modeling for regional adaptation

March 2016


Workshop attendees discussed how improved projections of rainfall extremes as climate changes could help officials mitigate erosion of archaeologically and culturally important locations such as this one at North Dakota’s Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. The river has already eroded part of this 19th century Hidatsa village—only 31 visible earth lodge depressions remain. Read the article here.

Rangwala, I., C. Dewes, and J. Barsugli (2016). EOS, Vol. 97, March 25.

Improving the public value of science: A typology to inform discussion, design and implementation of research

March 2016


Elizabeth McNie published a paper entitled “Improving the public value of science: A typology to inform discussion, design and implementation of research” with Adam Parris and Dan Sarewitz. In this paper, they describe a more complete view of research activities and expectations and introduce a multi-dimensional typology of research activities. Attributes of research are idealized on a spectrum, from science-centric to user-oriented. Using the typology can inform science-policy planning and decisions.

McNie, E. C., A. Parris, and D. Sarewitz, 2016. Research Policy, Vol. 45, Issue 4.

SNOTEL sensor upgrade has caused temperature record inhomogeneities for the Intermountain West

December 2015


The motivation for this briefing is to examine the large inhomogeneity (step shift) in the observed temperature record at the SNOw TELemetry (SNOTEL) stations in the Intermountain West and its implications for climate, hydrology and ecological research in the region. Read the full briefing.

Rangwala, I., T. Bardsley, M. Pescinski, and J. Miller, 2015. Western Water Assessment Climate Research Briefing.

WWA Spotlight

John Berggren Receives CIRES Graduate Student Research Fellowship

photoJohn Berggren received the CIRES Graduate Student Research Award for his project "Transitioning to a New Era in Western United States Water Governance: Examining Adaptive Capacity and Equitable Water Policy in the Colorado River Basin". This project uses a multi-method case study research design to theoretically and empirically determine criteria for sustainable and equitable water policy. It focuses on the Colorado River Basin as a case study to better understand how these criteria might be identified, contextualized, and put into operation. Additionally, this research will examine how water managers can use these criteria to help incorporate new scientific information and successfully adapt existing institutions to continually changing environmental conditions. (May 9, 2016)

WWA receives CU Innovative Seed Grant

Western Water Assessment was awarded an Innovative Seed Grant from the Office of the Vice Chancellor to work with the University of Colorado Grand Challenge project, Earth Lab. Earth Lab uses new data harmonization techniques and innovative visualization tools to identify and characterize changes in key processes in the earth system. Drawing on the experience of WWA, we will partner with Earth Lab researchers to pilot research co-production processes and training to fully harness the power of Earth Lab to improve societal decision making. This partnership will bring together some of the most innovative data science with new techniques to connect science with decision makers in private and public sectors and thus create impact beyond the university. (May 2, 2016)

NOAA SARP Award: Advancing the use of drought early warning systems in the Upper Colorado River Basin

Seth ArensBen Livneh and colleagues recently received an award from NOAA’s Sectoral Applications Research Program. This project will identify opportunities to improve drought risk management by characterizing decision processes related to drought risk and describing the current use of information among water providers in the Western Slope. Then, we will assess whether snowpack indicators will remain good predictors of seasonal water supplies under a warming climate. The first element of the project will consist of in-depth interviews, participant observation, document analysis and focus groups of five Western Slope water entities. The second element will evaluate the robustness of current snow-based drought indicators, estimate the change in robustness under projected future climate warming using modeled data, and explore the implications of changing robustness for climate adaptation resilience through focus groups with water managers. The project team consists of researchers and practitioners with diverse and complementary backgrounds (hydrology, climatology, social science, policy, civil engineering, and water resources management) and broad experience working on water and climate issues on the Western Slope. Personnel for this project include: Ben Livneh, Lisa Dilling, Bill Travis, Jeff Lukas, Nolan Doesken, and Eric Kuhn. (April 28, 2016)