Climate and Drought
Climate and Drought
Colorado is no stranger to hot and dry weather, but water shortages create headaches for all Coloradans. Changing climate could require us to change how we use and share this vital resource.
Colorado’s climate largely determines the amount of water available for our use. Although climate varies widely from year to year, Colorado is mostly a dry state. The average statewide precipitation is 16 inches per year, but this varies from year to year and from region to region. The San Luis Valley receives an average of 7 inches per year, while the mountains receive an average of 50 inches. Mountain snowfall may reach more than 300 inches in a single year!
Rainfall and snowmelt infiltrate rock and soil layers, increasing soil moisture and filling rivers and aquifers. Most Colorado rivers depend on snowmelt, rather than rainfall, for the majority of their volume, so winter storms are especially critical.
Precipitation in Colorado fluctuates markedly: long droughts are followed by sudden floods. Some decades are dryer or wetter than others. Sometimes Colorado’s climate seems to follow no discernible pattern. This makes predicting how climate change may impact the state’s water especially tricky. Colorado’s citizens and water managers must be prepared to deal with changing quantities of water.
Click the Fluent Water Facts below to learn more about Colorado's climate.
CFWE Climate Resources
Guide to Colorado Climate Change presents a range of contemporary climate change information written by experts. Take a look.
Water 101 Sheets are one-page references available for download and distribution. Explore the basics of drought, and wildfire or read various water conservation tips through a series of fact sheets. Interested in additional resources? Find them hereClimate Workshop
Participants tour the National Ice Core Lab, hear how researchers study climate and what that means locally. Learn more.
Connecting the Drops Radio
Listen to a radio feature on climate change's effects on Colorado farmers, spring runoff, and irrigation.