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Who we are, what we do

The Western Water Assessment (WWA) is an applied research program that addresses societal vulnerabilities related to climate, particularly in the area of water resources. We work across the Intermountain West—Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming—and beyond.

Learn more about WWA

Upcoming WWA Events and Speakers

October 22, 2015
Louisville Climate Change Symposium: Climate Change and Colorado Water
WWA Presenter: Jeff Lukas

October 28-29, 2015
Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum
Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction, CO
WWA Presenters: Klaus Wolter, Lisa Dilling, John Berggren, Doug Kenney

Intermountain West Climate Dashboard

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

Most recent Briefing: September 13

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

Incorporating Potential Severity into Vulnerability Assessment of Water Supply Systems under Climate Change Conditions

August 2015


In response to climate change, vulnerability assessment of water resources systems is typically performed based on quantifying the severity of the failure. This paper introduces an approach to assess vulnerability that incorporates a set of new factors. The method is demonstrated with a case study of a reservoir system in Salt Lake City using an integrated modeling framework composed of a hydrologic model and a systems model driven by temperature and precipitation data for a 30-year historical (1981–2010) period. Read the full article.

Goharian, E., S. J. Burian, T. Bardsley, and C. Strong, 2015. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, August 26.

Community Involvement Critical to Adaptation, Managing Climate Change Risks

May 2015


Our climate is changing, and people around the world are beginning to notice impacts. Birders have remarked how chicks are hatching earlier and earlier in the year, sometimes even missing the peak abundance of their food sources. Residents of the far north observe changes in species patterns, and Arctic coast residents are moving their homes inland to avoid destructive storm surges formerly buffered by pack ice. Read the full article in the Daily Camera.

Dilling, L., 2015. Daily Camera, May 3.

The Dynamics of Vulnerability: Why Adapting to Climate Variability Will Not Always Prepare Us for Climate Change

April 2015


Recent reports and scholarship suggest that adapting to current climate variability may represent a ‘no regrets’ strategy for adapting to climate change. Addressing ‘adaptation deficits’ and other approaches that target existing vulnerabilities are helpful for responding to current climate variability, but we argue that they may not be sufficient for adapting to climate change. Read the full article at WIREs Climate Change.

Dilling, L., M. E. Daly, W. R. Travis, O. V. Wilhelmi, and R. A. Klein, 2015. WIREs Climate Change , doi: 10.1002/wcc.341, Published April 23 2015.

Elevation-Dependent Warming in Mountain Regions of the World

April 2015


There is growing evidence that the rate of warming is amplified with elevation, such that high-mountain environments experience more rapid changes in temperature than environments at lower elevations. Elevation-dependent warming (EDW) can accelerate the rate of change in mountain ecosystems, cryospheric systems, hydrological regimes and biodiversity. Read the full article at Nature Climate Change.

Pepin, N., et al., 2015. Nature Climate Change, Vol. 5, 424-430, doi: 10.1038/nclimate2563.

WWA Spotlight

Ursula Rick joins WWA as new program manager

We’re pleased to announce that Ursula Rick has joined WWA as our program manager starting September 1st. Ursula has spent her career at the intersection of science and policy, working to translate each for the effective use by practitioners of the other. Most recently she managed regulatory policy advocacy for the oil and natural gas industry at Western Energy Alliance. Prior to that she was an AGI/AAAS Congressional Science Fellow in the office of Senator Mark Udall, advising on energy and natural resource policy. Ursula has a PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences from CU Boulder, focusing on the hydrology of meltwater in large ice sheets.

Eric Gordon, the WWA program manager since 2010, has returned to school full-time to complete an MS in Biology (with WWA team member Carol Wessman), with the goal of becoming a secondary school science teacher. Eric has been central to WWA’s successes over the past five years, and he has consistently demonstrated his professionalism and dedication in support of the RISA mission. We can’t thank him enough and we wish him the best with his new direction. (September 2, 2015)

Job Opportunity: Utah Research Integration Specialist

CIRES/WWA is seeking a full-time Professional Research Assistant to serve as the Utah Research Integration Specialist, supported by a grant from NOAA. The position will be located at the NOAA National Weather Service Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) in Salt Lake City, Utah, but collaborates widely with researchers and stakeholders throughout the region. Read more. (August 31, 2015)

Workshops: Snowpack monitoring for streamflow forecasting and drought planning

WWA and its partners convened three all-day workshops focused on improving the usability of snowpack monitoring information for runoff forecasting, drought early warning and planning, and other applications. For more information:

(May 19, 2015)

WWA and CSU release Colorado Climate Change Vulnerability Study

WWA, in collaboration with Colorado State University, conducted a broad study of climate vulnerability for the state of Colorado. Drawing from existing data and peer-reviewed research, the study summarizes the key challenges facing seven sectors: ecosystems, water, agriculture, energy, transportation, outdoor recreation and tourism, and public health. Read the CIRES press release and download the report.

Also, interviews with WWA's Eric Gordon about the study were broadcasted on KGNU radio's Morning Magazine and Colorado Public Radio's Colorado Matters. (February 4, 2015)