JP2.17 Assessment of the utility of climate information for large Front Range water providers in Colorado

Wednesday, 22 June 2005
Jessica Lowrey, NOAA/CIRES/CDC, Boulder, CO; and A. J. Ray

Annual water availability in the Front Range of Colorado, like most of the Western U.S. depends on accumulation of a winter snowpack, rather than on precipitation distributed throughout the year. Therefore, climate variability greatly influences annual municipal water supply and municipal water providers rely on reservoirs to store spring runoff and insure an adequate water supply all year long. Rapid population growth, finite water resources and climate variability in the context of annual and long-term municipal water planning make this region an interesting case for a user study aimed at the development of applied climate knowledge and services.

This poster will present results of a user-assessment of water providers in the Front Range of Colorado, a region that encompasses the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains from Denver to Colorado Springs. The study is part of the Western Water Assessment (WWA), one of NOAA's Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) programs. WWA's mission is to identify and characterize regional vulnerabilities to climate variability and change, and to develop information, products and processes to assist water-resource decision-makers throughout the Intermountain West. WWA is assessing the needs of the decision-making community, in order to improve the provision of useful climate products by NOAA and its climate service partners. The Front Range user-assessment project has three purposes: to identify water user needs for climate products (information and forecasts); to match these needs to WWA and NOAA research; and to develop a dialogue between the water policy community and the research community.

Some water providers use information on climate variability, such as tree-ring data, in their long-term planning models. However, none have developed ways to integrate climate forecasts into annual decision processes. In this study, we are evaluating current annual operations and long-term planning decisions of these water providers in order to assess their differential vulnerability to climate variability and climate change. We are facilitating meetings with WWA researchers and Front Range water providers and conduct interviews with some of these water providers in order to increase the level of understanding between the scientific and policy-making communities. By grouping water managers based on different climate needs, we can better understand the most appropriate information to provide and the best way to communicate this information with water providers. In addition, we expect that we will find needs for new undeveloped products and for new kinds of applied climatology studies by researchers including the WWA. Finally, we will provide guidance to water managers for integrating information on climate variability and climate change into their long-term and annual decision processes.

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