WWA Spotlights

WWA Part of 2019 Governor’s Award for High Impact Research

In the NewsWWA's Jeff Lukas and NOAA ESRL scientist Kelly Mahoney were part of a team that produced new understanding and decision support tools for the changing risk of extreme precipitation and its impact on dam safety in our region. The team has just won the 2019 Governor’s Award for High Impact Research!

This effort was part of a larger project sponsored by the Colorado Division of Water Resources and the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer to update decades-old probable maximum precipitation (PMP) estimates using modern technical methods and current scientific understanding. Lukas and Mahoney worked with CIRES scientist Michael Mueller to take stock of the state of the science and practice in PMP estimation with respect to climate change. The resulting synthesis report, Considering Climate Change in the Estimation of Extreme Precipitation for Dam Safety, was released in December 2018 and is included as Volume VI of the final Colorado-New Mexico Regional Extreme Precipitation Study report.

The research is already having an impact on dam safety in Colorado, as the state seeks to update its rules and regulations for dam construction. In January 2019, the Colorado Dam Safety Office proposed Rule 7.2.4, which would apply an atmospheric moisture factor of 7% to PMP values to account for the expected future warming and associated increases in atmospheric moisture availability from 2020 to 2070. 

New resources make the the Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) more accessible

The Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) shows the unusualness in evaporative demand--the "thirst" of the atmosphere--over a user-specified time window. The EDDI team has recently posted new resources and tools on the updated EDDI homepage to make EDDI maps and data more accessible and usable, complementing the current EDDI maps for the United States (the "Current Conditions" tab on the EDDI homepage):

- EDDI User Manual
- Archive of past EDDI maps back to 1980 ("EDDI Map Archive" tab)
- EDDI time-series tool ("Time Series" tab)

Current EDDI maps for the Intermountain West region are also available via the WWA Intermountain West Climate Dashboard and the NIDIS Drought Summary from the Colorado Climate Summary. A webinar on EDDI given on May 11, 2017 is available here. The EDDI Team includes researchers from NOAA ESRL Physical Sciences Division/CIRES, the Desert Research Institute, and Western Water Assessment. (October 24, 2017)

WWA 2016-2017 Annual Report available

Each spring, WWA reports to NOAA on the program's accomplishments over the previous calendar year. Download the WWA 2016-2017 Annual Report. (July 3, 2017)



Climate Services Database now available for the Western States

More than 130 public sector and nonprofit organizations provide climate services to the eleven western states, yet until now there has been no centralized resource to connect climate information users with the wide array of information and services available. The NOAA Western Region Climate Service Providers Database is a searchable directory of climate service providers in the west that makes climate services easier to find. Its powerful search function allows users to customize their search based on the type of service, the geographic area, stakeholders served, and several additional parameters. It’s a match-making app for the climate world. For more information about this project and initial findings from a landscape assessment of climate providers in the west, please refer to the preliminary analysis report. (May 9, 2017)

NOAA western region: Climate service providers database development and preliminary analysis

The purpose of the Climate Service Providers Database is to identify all climate-service providers in the NOAA Western Region. Climate-service organizations help to improve adaptation to climate change by creating, translating or disseminating potentially useful climate information by public engagement and responding to users' information needs. By putting all of this information into one usable format, we hope to improve our understanding of the provision of usable climate-science information and also begin to promote better connections between people and organizations who need useful climate information and those who produce it. (August 26, 2016)

2nd Wyoming drought summary issued

Another 2-page Wyoming drought summary was released by the Wyoming State Climate Office, NIDIS, and several other partners, including WWA. Drought has intensified in the northwestern and southeastern quarters of the state but has improved somewhat in the northeastin the past month. (August 19, 2016)

Wyoming drought worsening; summary released

To convey the intensifying and expanding drought conditions in Wyoming, a 2-page drought summary was released today by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and several partners, including WWA. Dry and hot conditions in June and July have led to 55% of Wyoming now being classified as "abnormally dry" or worse, up from 43% just one week ago. (July 29, 2016)

Report released on WWA snowpack workshops

In August and September 2015, WWA convened three all-day workshops, supported the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), to improve the usability of snowpack monitoring information in the Rocky Mountain West. The workshops brought together 180 participants, mainly representing a core user community of local, state, and federal water managers, along with other stakeholders, researchers, and information providers. The newly released report on the workshop summarizes the current state of snowpack monitoring and application to runoff forecasting, describes new spatial snow products, and conveys the user needs expressed in the workshops. (July 15, 2016)

An Evaluation of the Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Early Warning System

An Evaluation of the Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Early Warning SystemWWA completed an evaluation of the Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Early Warning System (UCRB DEWS), which is part of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and is operated out of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. The UCRB DEWS was the first of nine DEWS across the United States, and is based around regular webinars and a website that communicate drought conditions to water managers, agricultural producers, and other decision-makers. WWA’s evaluation assessed whether the UCRB DEWS is meeting NIDIS’ goals for the DEWS and improving drought preparedness in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The evaluation report describes several areas where the UCRB DEWS is succeeding and recommends steps that could be taken to improve its effectiveness. WWA’s evaluation is currently being used to inform NIDIS strategic planning across all of the DEWS. (June 7, 2016)

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)

2015: warmest year on record globally and for the western US; 3rd-warmest for Colorado, Utah, Wyoming

NOAAand NASA announced on January 20 that according to their respective analyses of surface temperature records, 2015 was the warmest calendar year on record (since 1880) globally, by a large margin over 2014. NOAA also reported that for the western US, 2015 was the warmest year on record (since 1895), just topping 1934, and the 3rd-warmest year on record (since 1895) for each of the states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. (January 22, 2016)

Lisa Dilling appears on KGNU Science Show

As political leaders are still hammering out an accord at the UN Climate Summit (COP21), in Paris, to rein in global warming. KGNU Science Show discussed the underlying scientific facts about climate change, and the policy promises and challenges for our future with WWA's Lisa Dilling. Listen to the show (start time: 7:06). (December 8, 2015)

Seth Arens joins WWA as Utah research integration specialist

Seth ArensWe’re pleased to announce that Seth Arens has joined WWA as our research integration specialist in Utah. Seth has a diverse background in science, including research experience in ecosystem and plant physiological ecology, snow hydrology and atmospheric science. Seth worked as an environmental scientist for the Utah Division of Air Quality, where he developed research program to assess the extent and causes of ozone pollution in Utah and maintained Utah’s air quality monitoring network from 2010-2015. Prior to working in Utah, Seth studied impacts of climate change on ecosystem structure and carbon balance of Arctic ecosystems in Alaska and Greenland. Seth earned a BA in Biology and Environmental Policy from Colby College in Waterville, ME, an MS in Biological Science from the University of Alaska-Anchorage and an MS in Biology from the University of Utah. (December 1, 2015)

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)

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)

WWA/CIRES Free Online Course on "Water in the Western United States"

WWA's Eric Gordon and Anne Gold from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) are co-teaching an free online course entitled "Water in the Western United States."

More information and registration for the course can be found here. This college-level course provides a broad overview of the history of water development in the region and relevant hydrology and climatology. The course will run in April, but registration is available now, and there are no requirements other than an Internet connection. We look forward to having you join our course! (December 4, 2014)

Introducing the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

The first phase of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit website was released on November 17. The Toolkit was developed by the NOAA and other Federal agencies to enable decision-makers to take action to boost their climate resilience using data-driven tools, information, and subject-matter expertise to make smarter decisions. The Toolkit offers information from across the federal government in one easy-to-use location. On the 'Find Experts' tab, WWA is listed as one of several entities within Colorado that are ready to assist Toolkit users with interpreting and applying the climate information accessed through the Toolkit. (November 18, 2014)

WWA and CWCB release Climate Change in Colorado report

Climate Change Impacts in the United StatesWWA and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) today released the report “Climate Change in Colorado: A Synthesis to Support Water Resources Management and Adaptation,” which updates and expands on the 2008 WWA-CWCB report of the same name. The report, authored by WWA team members Jeff Lukas, Joe Barsugli, Imtiaz Rangwala, and Klaus Wolter, and WWA affiliate Nolan Doesken of the CSU Colorado Climate Center, presents findings on observed climate trends in the state, linkages with global changes, and projections of future climate and hydrology, as well as guidance on incorporating climate change into planning. Download the report here. (August 5, 2014)

WWA's New Director: Lisa Dilling

Climate Change Impacts in the United StatesLisa Dilling, assistant professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, is the new director of the Western Water Assessment (WWA), an applied research program that addresses societal vulnerabilities related to climate, particularly in the area of water resources. Read more... (June 12, 2014)




Webinar on Water-Energy Nexus

On May 8, WWA's Kristen Averyt joined Craig Zamuda from the U.S. Department of Energy for a webinar sponsored by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies on the water-energy nexus. To view the webinar, click here. (May 14, 2014)

National Climate Assessment report describes impacts of climate change in U.S.

Climate Change Impacts in the United StatesOn May 6, the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA), Climate Change Impacts in the United States, was released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The comprehensive 829-page report assesses the science of climate change, and the impacts of climate change occurring now and through the 21st century, with the goal of better informing public and private decision-making at all levels. WWA’s Kristen Averyt was a lead author of the “Energy, Water, and Land Use” chapter. Kristen and several other WWA team members also contributed to regional and sectoral reports used as technical input for the NCA report. Explore the findings and download the NCA report here. (May 7, 2014)

WWA Team Member wins UCOWR Award

Joe Kasprzyk, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and a member of WWA's research team, was recently awarded the Universities Council on Water Resources Dissertation Award for natural science and engineering. Kasprzyk's research applies many-objective analysis to water resource challenges, helping water resource managers better understand the full suite of available decision options available given various constraints. For more on Joe's work, visit his website. (April 17, 2014)

WWA/NIDIS/GWC Report on climate change and the Navajo Nation released

Considerations for Climate Change and Variability on the Navajo NationWestern Water Assessment, in collaboration with the National Integrated Drought Information System and the Getches-Wilkinson Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, recently completed Considerations for Climate Change and Variability on the Navajo Nation. This report provides the Navajo Nation with a baseline set of information intended for use in adaptation planning for climate variability and change. (April 2, 2014)


New Article by WWA's Eric Gordon and Ben Livneh on bark beetle infestation impacts on water supplies

WWA's Eric Gordon and Ben Livneh, along with their colleague Evan Pugh, recently published an article providing a broad summary of potential effects of bark beetle infestations on water quantity and quality. The article was published in Utility Intelligence and Infrastructure. For more information on this topic, visit, WWA's Beetles, Water, and Climate webpage. (March 11, 2014)

Imtiaz Rangwala interviewed on CMIP3 vs. CMIP5

Many western water managers use the CMIP3 downscaled climate projections to plan for the effects of climate change on their water systems. Now that the CMIP5 projections have been released, water managers are wondering what this means for their investment in CMIP3. WWA's Imtiaz Rangwala recently presented on CMIP3 vs. CMIP5 in a webinar for Carpe Diem West, and a follow-up interview with Imtiaz on that topic was just posted in Confluence, Carpe Diem West's e-newsletter. (March 5, 2014)

Salt Lake City Utilities' Laura Briefer talks about working with WWA on climate study

Laura Briefer, a Water Resources Manager with the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, is interviewed about working with WWA on a recent climate study. She co-authored a study with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Western Water Assessment that investigated how rising temperatures could challenge Salt Lake City’s water supply. The study “Planning for an Uncertain Future: Climate Change Sensitivity Assessment toward Adaptation Planning for Public Water Supply” was published in the journal Earth Interactions. (February 25, 2014)

New WWA study analyzes disincentives to water conservation

A new study by WWA's Doug Kenney found that, especially in western contexts, water utilities face multiple financial and other constraints that tend to reduce the appeal of conservation in long-term planning efforts. Kenney's paper, published in the Journal of the American Water Works Association, found two major types of disincentives—those related to supply reliability and those related to utility revenues. The paper recommends considering other financial models, such as the "decoupling" model used by some electricity utilities. (January 13, 2014)

New study: Dust, warming portend dry future for the Colorado River

Andrew Temple of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, Colo., measure dust loading at Swamp Angel Study Plot in the San Juan Mountains, Colo., May 17, 2010. Photo by Jeffrey Deems.Reducing the amount of desert dust swept onto snowy Rocky Mountain peaks could help Western water managers deal with the challenges of a warmer future, according to a new study. With support from WWA and NASA’s Interdisciplinary Science program, CIRES’ Jeffrey Deems and his colleagues examined the combined effects of regional warming and dust on the Colorado River, which is fed primarily by snowmelt. During recent years, desert dust has been settling thick and dark on the snowpack in the northern Rocky Mountain headwaters of the Colorado River, and snowpack is melting out as many as six weeks earlier than it did in the 1800s, according to the new study. See the CIRES Press Release. (November 14, 2013)

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy mentions new WWA study on Twitter

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy TwitterThe official twitter account of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy mentioned WWA lead author Tim Bardsley's new study on climate adaptation planning for public water supply in Salt Lake City. See the CIRES Press Release. (November 1, 2013)

New WWA study: Rising temperatures challenge Salt Lake City’s water supply

For every 1 degree Fahrenheit of warming in the Salt Lake City region, water flow to the city will drop 1.8-6.5%. That's the conclusion from a new WWA-led climate analysis that offers a window into what other Western cities will face in a warming world. With help from this climate analysis, Salt Lake managers are preparing for a warmer future. See press coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune, Boulder Daily Camera, and Utah Public Radio. (November 1, 2013)

WWA's Klaus Wolter wins Governor's award for high-impact research

Congratulations to WWA's Klaus Wolter, in the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, one of four to win the 2013 Governor's Award for High-Impact Research. Wolter was honored for his work in sustainability, specifically for his research into connections between the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and drought, and applying his expertise to support water resource management and drought planning in the state of Colorado and throughout the Southwest. A short video about his work is here. (October 23, 2013)

WWA releases preliminary assessment of September 2013 flooding along Colorado's Front Range

Western Water Assessment, along with the NOAA ESRL Physical Science Division and the CSU Colorado Climate Center, just released a preliminary assessment of the weather and climate context of recent flooding along Colorado's Front Range. This assessment compares the precipitation and flooding to historic events, explains the large-scale weather patterns responsible for the rains, and discusses connections to climate change. Click here to watch a presentation about the information in this assessment. (September 25, 2013)


New WWA Video: Small beetle, big impacts

WWA's Eric Gordon and Jeff Lukas explain how mountain pine beetles are affecting water resources. (October 21, 2013)


New WWA publication finds worst watershed stresses may now become the new normal

WWA's Kristen Averyt and James Meldrum, along with co-authors from USDA, Tufts University and the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently completed an analysis of surface water in the United States. Their paper, published in Environmental Research Letters, evaluated supplies and demands on freshwater resources for each of the 2,103 watersheds in the continental United States, using a large suite of existing data sets. They identified times of extreme water stress between 1999 and 2007, and they estimated future surface water stress—using existing climate projections—for every watershed. In the paper, Averyt et al. also diagnosed the reasons contributing to stress. See the watershed maps (scroll to the bottom). (September 25, 2013)

WWA Panel at CU Boulder discusses extreme weather and connections to climate change

A panel of science experts convened at the University of Colorado Boulder on September 25, to discuss weather and climate related to the recent devastating floods. Panelists from several institutions came together to discuss the unusual weather conditions that caused the floods, the historical context and the potential influence of human-caused climate change on this extreme event. View the webcast. See September 23 CU Press Release. (September 25, 2013)

WWA's Joe Barsugli and NOAA's Marty Hoerling on the role of climate in regional floods

WWA's Joe Barsugli and NOAA colleague Marty Hoerling were highlighted in the September issue of Scientific American on the recent flooding in Colorado. (September 20, 2013)

New CIRES blog on the September 2013 Front Range Floods

Since the deluge started, there has been a torrent of public interest in floods—everything from rainfall figures and records broken to the roles climate and natural cycles played in the disaster. Here, CIRES will regularly compile flood information and resources. (September 20, 2013)

New WWA publication on climate impacts to tribal water resources

WWA's Karen Cozzetto, along with numerous co-authors from other institutions, recently completed an analysis of climate change impacts to tribal water resources. Their paper, published in Climatic Change, develops a framework for understanding these impacts in the context of a variety of other critical factors and discusses likely effects in various regions of the U.S. Their paper recognizes the unique value of water resources to many tribes and makes recommendations for future research. (September 17, 2013)

WWA workshop: Tree-ring reconstructions of streamflow for the Wasatch, October 2

WWA and the Wasatch Dendroclimatology Research Group (WADR) are convening a workshop in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, October 2, to support the application of new multi-century tree-ring reconstructions of Wasatch streamflow to water management in the region. For more information and registration, see the workshop home page. (August 27, 2013)

WWA workshop: Tree-ring reconstructions of streamflow for the Wasatch, October 2

WWA and the Wasatch Dendroclimatology Research Group (WADR) are convening a workshop in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, October 2, to support the application of new multi-century tree-ring reconstructions of Wasatch streamflow to water management in the region. For more information and registration, see the workshop home page. (August 27, 2013)

WWA's Imtiaz Rangwala speaks on climate change in the Gunnison Valley

WWA's Imtiaz Rangwala was quoted in the Crested Butte News and Gunnison Country Times from a panel discussion sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Read the Crested Butte News article article "RMBL hosts panel discussion on future of the Gunnison Valley". (August 13, 2013)

WWA Director, Kristen Averyt, appears on Colorado Public Radio

Kristen Averyt was on Colorado Public Radio's Colorado Matters program on August 12, 2013 talking about water use for electricity generation. Listen to "Meeting Energy Demands with Less Water". (August 12, 2013)

New WWA paper explores usefulness of satellite imagery for assessing bark beetle infestations

A paper by WWA's Brian Buma and Carol Wessman, along with co-author Evan Pugh, assesses the effectiveness of the MODIS satellite in measuring leaf area index (LAI) in beetle-killed forests. Their paper can be found in the International Journal of Remote Sensing. (August 1, 2013)

New video on WWA work on energy-water nexus

WWA Director Kristen Averyt is featured in a video from the University of Colorado's Office for University Outreach. She underscores the importance of understanding the impacts of energy production on water supplies. (July 18, 2013; updated July 25, 2013 with newer version of the video)

Rocky Mountains to warm more than lower elevations, according to new paper

The Rocky Mountains can expect more warming in the future than lower-elevation regions at the same latitude during the cold season, according to a new analysis of the latest (CMIP5) global climate model runs. WWA’s Imtiaz Rangwala and two colleagues from Rutgers University analyzed the model output for temperature changes as function of surface elevation in the northern mid-latitudes for a paper published in June in Environmental Research Letters. The study, which built upon Rangwala’s investigations when he was a PACE postdoc co-sponsored by WWA, found that these enhanced future warming projections are in part due to a proportionately stronger water vapor feedback at high elevations, and also to reduced snow cover that facilitates greater heating of the land surface. (July 10, 2013)

WWA welcomes Imtiaz Rangwala back to Boulder

Imtiaz Rangwala, who worked with WWA from 2009-2011 as a PACE postdoctoral fellow, has returned to Boulder and WWA for a second postdoc stint. Imtiaz will be working with WWA’s Bill Travis and Joe Barsugli, Gregg Garfin of CLIMAS, and colleagues at The Nature Conservancy to analyze, synthesize and communicate the latest climate science to support land conservation efforts throughout the four-state region of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. We’re very fortunate to have him and his considerable climate expertise bolstering our team again. (July 10, 2013)

WWA study assesses usefulness of river forecast applications for water management

A study led by NOAA's Kevin Werner, along with co-authors Kristen Averyt and Gigi Owen, used a scenario-based approach in a workshop setting to explore if and how people implement forecast information into reservoir operations decisions. The study found strong tendencies for participants to wait for observed information, as opposed to forecast information, before making decisions. The study, "River Forecast Application for Water Management: Oil and Water?," has been published in the journal Weather, Climate, and Society. (July 9, 2013)

WWA and NIDIS release special drought briefing for the Intermountain West

With drought conditions and impacts affecting much of the region this summer, WWA and the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) have released a two-page Summer 2013 Drought Summary and Outlook for Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico. This briefing summarizes recent precipitation, current and expected drought conditions, spring-summer streamflows, reservoir levels, agricultural impacts, and wildfire risk. (June 26, 2013)

WWA contributes to paper on how climate change will affect the Colorado River’s flow

Recent studies of the impact that climate warming will have on flow in the Colorado River have produced an unsettling range of estimates, from a modest decrease of 6 percent by 2050 to a steep drop of 45 percent by then. A new paper by researchers at CIRES Western Water Assessment, University of Washington, and NOAA investigates and explains why those estimates differ and summarizes what is known about the future of this iconic Western river—key information for decision makers. (More details from CIRES). (June 25, 2013)

WWA welcomes Elizabeth McNie

Western Water Assessment is proud to welcome the newest member of our research team, Elizabeth "Bets" McNie. Formerly an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, Bets will serve as the evaluation coordinator for Western Water Assessment and conduct research on the effectiveness of regional climate services. Her primary area of expertise is improving the utility of climate-science information for decision makers, and the design and function of climate-service organizations. She is also interested more broadly in linking knowledge with action, climate-science policy, and how to shape research agendas to improve the relevance of scientific information for policy. In her spare time Bets likes playing guitar around a campfire, cooking gourmet meals, and living in a 'tiny home'. (June 21, 2013)

WWA team members present to Navajo Nation on climate adaptation

Last month, WWA team members Karen Cozzetto and Julie Nania presented on climate change adaptation planning at the 4th Annual Navajo Nation Agricultural Conference. Their presentation, which was also translated into Navajo, provided background information and examples from the in-progress Navajo Nation Climate Adaptation Report, and noted other adaptation efforts by the Navajo Nation. (May 28, 2013)

WWA study assesses joint impact of dust-on-snow and climate change on Colorado River streamflow

A study led by WWA's Jeff Deems, along with co-authors including WWA team members Joe Barsugli and Brad Udall, used hydrologic modeling to assess the impact of dust-on-snow—including the extreme dust loadings experienced in 2009 and 2010—on the volume and timing of runoff in the Upper Colorado River Basin under multiple climate scenarios. The study, "Combined impacts of current and future dust deposition and regional warming on Colorado River Basin snow dynamics and hydrology," has been published as a "discussion paper" in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, and anyone who is interested is invited to submit review comments on the paper. (May 23, 2013)

WWA's Lisa Dilling publishes chapter on climate adaptation success

Successful Adaptation to Climate Change

Building on work from multiple WWA research projects, WWA's Lisa Dilling, along with Rebecca Romsdahl of the University of North Dakota, recently published a chapter entitled "Promoting Adaptation Success in Natural Resource Management Through Decision Support: Lessons from the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Regions." Dilling and Romsdahl's chapter is in Successful Adaptation to Climate Change: Linking Science and Policy in a Rapidly Changing World, edited by Susanne Moser and Maxwell Boykoff. (May 16, 2013)


WWA contributes to analysis of Southwest’s climate future

Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States

In an era of increasing climate instability, the southwestern United States faces strained water resources, greater prevalence of tree-killing pests, and potentially significant alterations of agricultural infrastructure. These threats and challenges as well as others are detailed in the new book, “Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States.” Read more ... (May 2, 2013)

WWA 2012 Annual Report available

WWA Annual Report 2012

Each spring, WWA reports to NOAA on the program's accomplishments over the previous calendar year. Download the WWA 2012 Annual Report. (April 29, 2013)

Layers of dust on Colorado mountains to impact snowmelt and runoff

WWA's Jeffrey Deems was quoted in a Denver Post article on southwestern dust found in snow across Colorado mountains. Excerpt from the article:

Dust blown in from the Southwest settled on snow over many of Colorado's mountains during this week's storm and will eventually affect how fast the snowpack melts and possibly how much water the state can hold onto. Researchers say the dust kicked up from Arizona, New Mexico and Utah by southwesterly winds fell in Steamboat Springs, Summit County, Vail, Aspen and the San Juan mountains. Dust was also scattered in the snow that fell along the Front Range, but it's likely that dust could have been carried by southeasterly winds from other areas too, including parched southeastern Colorado, the San Luis Valley and the Arkansas River Basin. Read more. (April 22, 2013)

How much water will our future electricity generation portfolio require?

A new paper by WWA's Kristen Averyt, along with collaborators at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Union of Concerned Scientists, explores how freshwater withdrawals by electric power plants could change under a number of future electricity generation scenarios. Their analysis includes aggregation of results by second-order hydrologic units in order to accommodate how basin-level differences in water availability affect generation. Their paper is available freely here and is part of a broader "Focus on Electricity, Water, and Climate Connections" published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. (March 18, 2013)

Understanding and harmonizing estimates of life-cycle water use for electricity generation

In order to better compare water used in the entire life cycles (manufacturing through operation) of electric generation options, WWA's James Meldrum, along with collaborators at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, developed a three-step methodology to assess existing data. Their findings indicate that thermoelectric generation facilities appear to use the most water, while photovoltaic and wind resources use the least. An article on their findings is available here and is part of a broader "Focus on Electricity, Water, and Climate Connections" published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. (March 18, 2013)

San Juan Bark Beetles and Watersheds Workshop - April 10, Durango, CO

On Wednesday, April 10, WWA will present an all-day workshop for water and forest resource managers to share what researchers know and don’t know about the potential water impacts from bark beetle infestations in lodgepole and spruce-fir forests in the Rocky Mountain West. We will also hear from local experts about the ongoing spruce beetle infestation in the San Juan headwaters. On the preceding evening (April 9) there will be a related community meeting and open house in Pagosa Springs. The Mountain Studies Institute (MSI), the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership, the U.S. Forest Service, and Firewise of Southwest Colorado are partnering with WWA to convene the two events. See here for more information and registration. (March 7, 2013)

First stage of new snowpack study completed

Jeff Deems of CIRES and WWA, with colleagues from NASA JPL and CRREL, is monitoring mountain snowpack depth using a novel method that combines ground-based and airborne lidar. The goal is to improve water-supply inventories and forecasts in snowmelt-dominated watersheds. Deems received a 2012 CIRES Innovative Research Program grant to conduct the project, and the team finished collecting baseline data from snow-free mountain basins in Colorado and California last fall. They will collect measurements from snow-filled basins this March through July. Read more. (February 22, 2013)

New WWA paper analyzes water use by power plants

WWA's Kristen Averyt and James Meldrum, along with collaborators at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Synapse Energy Economics, recently completed an analysis of 2008 water use by electric power plants. Their findings demonstrated that approximately 41% of freshwater withdrawals and 3% of freshwater consumption across the country is attributable to power generation, usually for cooling purposes. The paper, published in Environmental Research Letters, also showed significant discrepancies between water use data collected by the Energy Information Administration and calculations done for this analysis. Averyt et al.'s paper is available here. (February 5, 2013)


Brad Udall's departure from WWA

After nearly 10 years serving as Director of the Western Water Assessment, Brad Udall is moving on to become Director of the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment. (More information is available in this press release.) Please join us in congratulating Brad and thanking him for his service! Kristen Averyt will serve as WWA's Interim Director. As always, please contact us at wwa@colorado.edu with any questions or comments. (January 29, 2013)

Mountain pine beetle infestation has not led to excess nitrate in Colorado streams, according to new paper

An author team that included WWA-sponsored researchers James McCutchan and Thomas Detmer concluded that, contrary to expectations, there has been no significant increase in stream nitrate concentrations following widespread pine beetle tree mortality in Colorado. The team's paper, published January 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), synthesized findings from several university and federal agency research studies, including the WWA project led by McCutchan. Read the CU-Boulder press release, the Green blog at the New York Times and the full article at PNAS. Also see the WWA Beetles, Water, and Climate webpages. (January 22, 2013)

WWA receives NOAA funding to help integrate climate science into conservation planning

NOAA recently announced seven multi-year awards to its RISA (Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments) programs to encourage collaboration with federal and non-federal partners on climate adaptation. WWA received $100,000 to connect the climate expertise at WWA and sister program CLIMAS (U. of Arizona) with regional conservation planners and decisionmakers, through The Nature Conservancy-led Southwest Climate Change Initiative (SWCCI). The effort is led by WWA team member Bill Travis. See the project description here. (January 22, 2013)

New WWA research article: The status of climate change adaptation by federal land managers

The journal Ecology and Society recently published "Climate Change and Western Public Lands: A Survey of U.S. Federal Land Managers on the Status of Adaptation Efforts." This article summarizes and analyzes the results of a survey conducted by WWA team members Kellie Archie and Lisa Dilling, with Jana Milford and Fred Pampel of CU, on the status of climate adaptation efforts being undertaken by federal land managers in the WWA region. Read the full article at Ecology and Society. (November 26, 2012)

Summary of the Southwest Climate Assessment Report is now available

The Summary for Decision Makers of the forthcoming report Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwestern United States is now available through the Southwest Climate Science Center. Several WWA team members contributed to the report, which provides a state-of-the-science overview of past, ongoing, and projected climate changes and impacts for the Southwest region, including Utah and Colorado. The full report will be published by Island Press in the near future. (November 26, 2012)

WWA shares DOI Partners in Conservation Award for the Colorado River Basin Study

On October 18, the Western Water Assessment was among the organizations awarded a Department of the Interior's Partners in Conservation Award for their collaborative effort on the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, led by the Bureau of Reclamation. WWA's Joe Barsugli, who helped Reclamation develop the future climate and hydrology scenarios for the Basin Study, accepted the award in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the program. This is the second Partners in Conservation Award in four years that WWA has shared for its work with Reclamation and others on Colorado River climate and hydrology. (October 19, 2012)

(More details from CIRES)

WWA 2012 Stakeholder Meeting

On Tuesday, October 2, WWA convened its third annual stakeholder meeting. The meeting provided a forum for WWA to present the results of recently completed research projects and the objectives of the new projects for the coming year, and to get feedback from our community about those projects and their emerging needs for climate-related information and research. Presentations from the meeting have now been posted on the Meeting homepage. (October 10, 2012)

The new Intermountain West Climate Dashboard

At our Stakeholder Meeting on October 2, we demonstrated our "beta" Intermountain West Climate Dashboard, which provides most of the same climate graphics as are in the WWA Intermountain West Climate Summary (IWCS), but with the advantage of being updated much more frequently—daily, in many cases. Accompanying the graphics is a brief text summary of conditions as of October 1. We encourage you to check out the Dashboard and provide us with feedback on how it works. (October 5, 2012)

Changes and new faces at WWA

Kristen Averyt, WWA's Deputy Director since 2008, was named the CIRES Associate Director of Science in August. While we will greatly miss her energy and output as a full-time staffer, she will continue to be a member of the WWA research team. Congratulations to Kristen on her new position!

Ben Livneh, most recently at the University of Washington, has joined WWA as a CIRES postdoctoral research fellow, working mainly on the Snowmelt Perturbations project.

James Meldrum, recent PhD from the University of Colorado Environmental Studies program, is now a WWA researcher on the Water for Energy project (jointly with NREL). (October 1, 2012)

WWA debuts new website

On October 1, the redesigned Western Water Assessment website went live. The new design and organization is intended to be more straightforward and pleasant to use. Key information on WWA's activities has also been updated. Not all resources from the old website have been carried over to the new one, so if you have difficulty finding a resource you previously accessed at WWA, please let us know at wwa@colorado.edu and we'll find it for you. (October 1, 2012)

WWA has new contact email

The main contact email for the Western Water Assessment is now wwa@colorado.edu, changed from the previous wwa@noaa.gov. While we have close ties with NOAA, being a RISA program funded by the NOAA Climate Program Office and physically located in the NOAA ESRL building, we're formally a program of the University of Colorado Boulder. Our new email better reflects our affiliation with the university. (October 1, 2012)

WWA Webinar SeriesWWA Webinar Nov. 13 on Water-Energy-Climate Nexus

On Tuesday, November 13, from 10:00-11:00 am, WWA researcher James Meldrum will present "Water, Energy, and Climate Change: Freshwater Use by Power Plants." See the WWA Webinars page for more details and login information. (November 6, 2012)

Intermountain West Climate SummaryJuly 2012 IWCS now available - special issue on Drought

The July 2012 issue of the Intermountain West Climate Summary is now available. This is a special issue on the 2012 drought in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, in collaboration with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

Two-page drought briefing also available

On July 12, WWA and NIDIS also released a two-page briefing on the 2012 drought, which summarizes the more detailed information found in the July IWCS.

WWA Webinar SeriesNew WWA Webinar Series

WWA began a new series of monthly webinars in spring 2012, with three webinars presented so far. More information and archived webinar presentations here.


WWA 2011 Annual ReportWWA 2011 Annual Report Available

Each spring, WWA reports to NOAA on the program's accomplishments over the previous calendar year. Download the WWA 2011 Annual Report.




Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious ResourceNew UCS report on water use in power plants, led by WWA's Kristen Averyt

In November, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report entitled "Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious Resource". This report is the first systematic assessment of the effects of power plant cooling on water resources across the country, and of the quality of information in this area available to decision makers. WWA's Kristen Averyt served as lead researcher and lead author for the report, which is part of the Energy and Water in a Warming World (EW3) Initiative. Go to the UCS website to learn more and download the report. Read a brief summary of the report's findings in the March 2012 IWCS Feature Article.

Forests BudgetUtah Bark Beetles and Watersheds Workshop
December 1, 2011

This workshop was convened by WWA and the US Forest Service Intermountain Region and Rocky Mountain Research Station to explore the water-related impacts of bark beetle infestations in Utah and the Rocky Mountain West. Over 40 forest managers, water managers, snowpack and streamflow forecasters, and others participated in-person, with many others participating online. Go to the workshop homepage to access the presentations and video.

Colorado Climate Preparedness Project ReportColorado Climate Preparedness Project

In early 2011, WWA completed the Colorado Climate Preparedness Project, a catalog of climate impacts and adaptation activities and options for five climate-sensitive sectors throughout the state: water; wildlife, ecosystems, and forests; electricity; agriculture, and outdoor recreation. Download the report (PDF, 5MB) or visit the CCPP database.