The scientific evidence is clear – the Earth’s climate is warming. Multiple independent measurements confirm widespread warming in the western United States. In Colorado, temperatures increased by approximately 2°F between 1977 and 2006. These increasing temperatures affect the state’s water resources.
Climate Projections and Colorado’s Water Resources
How does the CWCB address climate change?
- Current climate models project that Colorado will warm by 2.5°F by 2025 and 4°F by 2050. Summers are likely to warm more than winters.
- Warmer temperatures will affect evaporation rates in our rivers, streams and reservoirs, perhaps making less water available for beneficial use.
- A projected seasonal shift in precipitation may result in more mid-winter precipitation throughout the state and, in some areas, a decrease in late spring and summer precipitation.
- Lower elevation snowpack (below 8200 ft.) is likely to decline, with modest declines projected for high elevation snowpack (above 8200 ft.).
- The timing of runoff is projected to shift earlier in the spring, which may reduce late summer stream flows. These changes will probably occur regardless of changes in precipitation.
Although Colorado has developed methods to manage water resources in the past, these future climate changes may pose new challenges for water managers. The CWCB helps water managers by supporting planning efforts on a local, regional and statewide basis. CWCB's efforts include:
- The Colorado Climate Preparedness Project: The project provides a catalog of climate impacts and adaptation activities and options in five climate sensitive sectors in the state: water, wildlife, ecosystems and forests, electricity, agriculture and outdoor recreation. An associated online database is also available.
- The Colorado River Water Availability Study: The study aims to find out how much water from the Colorado River Basin System is available to meet Colorado’s current and future water needs.
- The Joint Front Range Climate Change Vulnerability Study: The study provided the education, tools and methodology necessary to examine the possible effects of climate change on several common watersheds.
- Drought Planning: The CWCB encourages and assists communities in preparing and implementing drought mitigation plans, monitors drought impacts and educates water providers about drought planning.
- The Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan: The plan provides a road map to assist the state with reducing the impact of water shortages over the short and long-term. The plan includes a mechanism for drought monitoring, impact assessment, response to emergency drought problems and mitigation of long-term drought impacts.
- The Colorado Climate Action Plan: The plan sets specific, achievable goals for Coloradans to help address global warming.