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Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi
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Drought Frequently Asked Questions



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Annual Rainfall for ColoradoUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
How much rainfall does Colorado receive annually?
Annual precipitation in Colorado averages only 17 inches statewide, with the majority of the State receiving only 12 – 16 inches.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Colorado in a DroughtUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Is Colorado currently in a drought?
 This is an all too common question in Colorado and there is no straightforward answer. Drought is a prevalent natural phenomenon in Colorado. Single season droughts over some portion of the State are common. Prolonged periods of drought develop slowly over several years and are cyclical in nature. With Colorado’s semiarid and variable climate, there will always be a concern for water availability within the State.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Colorado Statewide Drought PlanUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Does Colorado have a statewide drought plan?
Yes, the State currently follows the Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan, which was updated in 2007. The Plan provides an effective and systematic means for the State to reduce the impacts of water shortages over the short or long term. The plan outlines a mechanism for coordinated drought monitoring, impact assessment, response to emergency drought problems, and mitigation of long term drought impacts.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Drought DeclarationUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
What is a drought declaration?
Drought declarations are traditionally made by public officials and may be made at the local, state and federal level. In Colorado, the Water Availability Task Force is responsible for assessing drought conditions and recommends to the governor when an official drought declaration should be made. Water providers can also officially declare a drought. Water restrictions and other drought response measures may be enforced following local drought declarations.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Drought FrequencyUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
How often does drought occur?
Historical analysis of precipitation and other drought indices show that drought is a frequent occurrence in Colorado. Short duration drought as defined by the three-month Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) occur somewhere in Colorado in nearly nine out of every ten years. However, severe, widespread multiyear droughts are much less common. Since the 1893, Colorado has experienced six droughts that are widely considered “severe.” These droughts affected most of the state, involved record-breaking dry spells, and/or lasted for multiple years.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Drought Mitigation Plan RequirementUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Am I required to have a state-approved Drought Mitigation Plan?
No, currently there is no statutory requirement that any entity have a State-approved Drought Mitigation Plan. However, the CWCB strongly recommends that water providers and state and local governmental entities develop a plan. Drought mitigation planning is critical to preserving essential public services and minimizing the adverse effects of a water supply emergency on public heath and safety, economic activity, environmental resources and individual lifestyles.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Drought Mitigation Plan vs. Water Conservation PlanUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
What is the difference between Drought Mitigation Planning and Water Conservation Planning?
It is common to confuse drought mitigation planning and water conservation planning.
  • The goal of drought mitigation planning is to ensure an uninterrupted supply of water in an amount sufficient to satisfy essential needs. Drought response measures can include mandatory restrictions on certain water uses, water allocation or the temporary use of an alternative water supply. These measures are intended to be temporary responses to water supply shortages.
  • The goal of water conservation planning is to achieve lasting, long-term improvements in water use efficiency. Water conservation measures can include managing landscape irrigation, implementing conservation water rate structures, replacing or retrofitting water fixtures and similar efforts.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Drought Triggers DefinitionUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
What are drought triggers?
A drought trigger is the specific value of a drought indicator that activates a management response. For example, a drought trigger could be a reservoir decreasing below 50% of its storage capacity. In a drought contingency plan, trigger levels can be varied to alter the sensitivity of the response and the effectiveness of the plan. Defining drought triggers can be difficult. Trigger levels change over time, that is, an appropriate trigger level for a particular system may change dramatically if that system has an increase in available infrastructure or if water demands change dramatically. Urban water triggers are often quite different from agriculture drought triggers, as the urban infrastructure can often mitigate the impacts of short-term droughts.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Monitoring Drought ConditionsUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Who monitors drought conditions?
The Water Availability Task Force monitors drought conditions at a statewide level. Local water providers also monitor drought conditions by using data provided by various agencies and also by monitoring conditions within their own watersheds.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Monitoring for DroughtUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
What factors and indices are monitored for possible drought conditions?
Drought indicators are any single observation or combinations of observations that contribute to identifying the onset and/or continuation of a drought. Drought indicators can include measures of streamflow, precipitation, reservoir storage, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which is a function of precipitation, temperature, and the available water content of the soil, and other similar measures. The effectiveness of drought indicators depends on the region and the resources. Often, the degree of infrastructure development in a region may define the most appropriate indicators.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Water Availability Task Force MeetingsUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
How often does the Water Availability Task Force meet?
The Water Availability Task Force (WATF) meets, at a minimum, quarterly throughout the water year (October - September). However, during the months of March - August, the WATF may meet monthly to address and monitor rapidly changing water availability conditions around Colorado. Should drought conditions develop, the WATF will meet more often to monitor and plan for a drought response and needed mitigation activities.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning
Water Availability Task Force Meetings Schedule and AttendanceUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Are the Water Availability Task Force meetings open to the public and can I be notified of the meeting schedule?
Yes, meetings are open to the public and the public is encouraged to attend. To be notified, via email, of the upcoming meeting schedule, please see the CWCB/IBCC Insider page to add your name to our email distribution list.
Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning