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Climate and Drought

A Headwaters State


Click the Fluent Water Facts below to learn more about Colorado's climate.


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Water We Share With Other States

The headwaters of four major rivers draw from the mountains within Colorado’s borders. But while this water may originate in our state, it flows through 18 other states and the Republic of Mexico, and we must leave water in the rivers for their use, too. Colorado has nine interstate compacts, or agreements, that determine how much water we must leave for our neighbors. (To read more about Colorado’s interstate compacts, click here.) If climate change results in less water, Colorado and its fellow compact states will have less water to divide between them, and less water to use.

How can Colorado and the compact states adjust to climate change? Traditionally, states rely on water stored in reservoirs, which can be released to make up shortfalls in dry times. If climate change results in long-term decreases in streamflow, however, reservoirs alone cannot store enough to solve the problem. States may need to change the amounts of water specified in the compacts, to accommodate diminished supply. This will undoubtedly be a lengthy legal process. Compounding the problem, some think the compacts were written after unusually wet years, creating unrealistic water expectations that already make compliance difficult.

Fortunately, water managers already have some ideas for how to deal with water shortages. Some creative solutions might include:

  • Shifting water use among current users
  • Importing water from other basins
  • Weather modification such as cloud seeding
  • Efficiency improvements to conserve water
  • Desalination

Water providers are experimenting with many of these adaptations, but water shortages could demand more effort. If overall river levels drop dramatically, the states could need to work together and negotiate new strategies.

WEco 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 herefact_sheetsClimate 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.

1750 Humboldt Street, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218