Drought in the Colorado River Basin

Science Center Objects

The Colorado River Basin is currently experiencing its worst drought in recorded history. Drought impacts include worsening habitat conditions for several threatened and endangered species, wildland fire risks, reduced snowpack, changes in water availability and agricultural production; reduced recreation opportunities at National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, and Conservation areas; and impacts to over 20 Tribes for whom the basin is a physical, economic, and cultural resource.

The USGS provides critical science for understanding the complexity of drought issues and the impact of drought and compounding hazards, such as wildfire, on human and natural systems. The USGS produces a wide variety of actionable intelligence in the form of observation and monitoring networks, predictive models, and tools to support drought planning and understand drought impacts.

Image: Drought and Beetle-Killed Piñon Pines in Arizona

Drought and beetle-killed piñon pines in Walnut Canyon National Monument near Flagstaff, Arizona, amid a few surviving trees. Forest drought stress is strongly correlated with tree mortality from poor growth, bark beetle outbreaks, and high-severity fire.

(Credit: Craig D. Allen, USGS. Public domain.)

Federal agencies and stakeholders are working together to find the answers to the complex questions around drought. This strategic approach can enable the USGS to provide the integrated and predictive science to underpin policy- and management decisions that will help mitigate the effects of the drought on human and natural ecosystems. This integrated approach can also support efforts to predict and assess drought-related changes to wildfire vulnerability and post-fire impacts on water quality, runoff, and debris flows. Incorporation of socioeconomic factors into integrated science models can help decision makers balance human and ecosystem needs related to management of water, land, and energy resources in the Colorado River Basin.


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