Dealing With Drought--Adapting to a Changing Climate

The Colorado Water Conservation Board, National Integrated Drought Information System, and Western Water Assessment conducted a series of three Dealing with Drought—Adapting to a Changing Climate workshops in October. One was in Durango on October 22nd. As part of the session, a plethora of valuable information and resources (all downloadable at http://wwa.colorado.edu/climate_change/drought09.html) was provided.

Excluding the southeastern portion of the state, the workshop provided research findings that indicate significantly higher temperature trends in Colorado since the 1990’s. It was interesting to note, too, that warming in Colorado is occurring more significantly than global. Summers are projected to warm more than winters. Studies suggest that shifts in timing and intensity of stream flows are related to warming spring temperatures. The timing of runoff is projected to shift earlier in the spring, and late-summer flows may be reduced. A synthesis of findings suggests a reduction in total water supply by the mid-21st century.
 
As Jeff Lukas, Senior Research Assistant with Western Water Assessment, put it, “Any given drought will be more severe and we will be in drought more often.” In essence, the past is becoming a less reliable guide for the future. Preparation—including integrated resource planning (IRP) and drought mitigation plans—are highly recommended for all water-related entities. IRP is a widely used long-term planning approach that integrates multiple facets of water management challenges, and is a strategy for keeping a wide range of options open and maintaining flexibility in the face of uncertain futures. Visit the CWCB website at www.cwcb.state.co.us/Conservation/ for helpful and useful information on how to prepare an IRP.