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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

WWA Events and Speakers

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:
November 12

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 Colorado Basin River Forecast Center and the Decision Making Process

November 2015


This study investigated characteristics of the users or potential users of Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) forecasts and their decision making contexts, and analyzed the utility of a Western Water Assessment project quantifying the contribution of tree death due to bark beetle infestation along with desert dust deposition on snowpack on streamflow. Read the full report.

Klein, R. and L. Dilling, 2015. Western Water Assessment White Paper.

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.

WWA Spotlight

WWA & NOAA PSD El Niño Impacts for Colorado Briefing 10/23 - Archived Webcast & Two-Pager

On Friday, October 23, WWA and the NOAA ESRL Physical Science Division (PSD) convened a panel of experts to discuss what El Niño is and what it does, past El Niño impacts across Colorado, and what kind of weather we might expect in Colorado this fall, winter and spring. The archived webcast can be accessed here (forward to the 3:10 mark). The briefing and discussion were based on a two-page El Niño briefing document released the same day. (October 23, 2015)

NOAA announces another round of funding for Western Water Assessment

NOAA announced they will support Western Water Assessment (WWA) for another five years. The Climate Program Office recently funded 53 new projects aimed at improving climate research and the ability of communities to respond. Included in the list was WWA, which received $4 million over the next five years. Under this new round of funding, we plan to pursue three main research themes. One of those is to examine how the science developed by WWA and other research entities can be made more useful to decision-making. Another research theme over the next five years will be vulnerability and adaptation. We plan to focus on how Utah, Colorado and Wyoming are vulnerable to climate change, as well as how to design more adaptive and resilient systems, looking specifically at water supply. And, finally, in an extension of our work on the 2013 Front Range floods, we want to better understand extreme weather and climate events and help to use that understanding to inform future decisions. (October 8, 2015)

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)