The Joint Front Range Climate Change Vulnerability Study
has been a collaborative effort between water utilities along Colorado’s Front Range, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Western Water Assessment, the Principal Investigators, and the Water Research Foundation. It has focused on developing and applying procedures for combining the results of the latest climate science with the best available hydrologic simulation capabilities to gain insight into future streamflow trends that could be expected under possible climate change.
The collaborative approach allowed participants to identify and support a common assessment methodology, develop a coordinated set of evaluation tools, and combine and efficiently utilize resources rather than pursuing independent, duplicative and more costly studies. An educational component was included and has been essential to developing the methodology, interpreting the results, and understanding needs for future research and investigation.
Although the study results indicate broad variability and uncertainty about future streamflow, the results are consistent with the variability and implicit uncertainty associated with the results of the climate models that were used as inputs. The specific findings of this study point toward future research that will improve estimates and enhance understanding of streamflow response to climate change.
To assess potential changes in the timing and volume of hydrologic runoff for the years 2040 and 2070 as compared with 1950 to 1999, two hydrology models
are being developed and calibrated for the river basins and tributaries impacting the gage sites
(18 locations). The temperature and precipitation projections
used to generate corresponding streamflow come from regionally downscaled temperature and precipitation global climate model output. The projected streamflow obtained by running adjusted sequences of temperature and precipitation through the hydrologic models will be compared to historic streamflow to estimate the sensitivity of water supplies to climate change.