Western Drought Resilience Assessment

Science Center Objects

We collected streamflow, water temperature, and other data from more than 2,500 gaging stations on rivers and streams across California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington to document the severity of the 2015 drought. We are using the data collected to assess how warmer winter temperatures, reduced mountain snowpack, and a shift in precipitation from snow to rain may affect future water availability. 

We collected streamflow, water temperature, and other data from rivers and streams across California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington to document the severity of the 2015 drought. We are using the data collected to ssess how warmer winter temperatures, reduced mountain snowpack, and a shift in precipitation from snow to rain may affect future water availability. 

Given the hydrologic conditions in 2015, watersheds where snowmelt is the primary source of groundwater recharge and streamflow recedes rapidly over the summer are likely more vulnerable to low streamflow. Region wide low streamflow conditions have significant implications for surface water supplies, endangered species, and agriculture and municipal water users. Water users and managers need have information to assess the vulnerability of their groundwater and surface water resources in the context of This information will be use to evaluate whether some types of systems are more vulnerable than others to variability in precipitation and snowpack. 

This project has three main objectives:

  1. Document streamflow conditions during the late summer in WY 2015 in in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Include sites in basins with near-normal and below-normal precipitation.
  2. Assess how the change in the dominant form of precipitation from snow to rain in WY 2015 affects low flows in western rivers and streams. Identify types of streams where low flows are most vulnerable and least vulnerable to this type of change in precipitation.
  3. Evaluate whether WY 2015 can serve as a model for potential climate change impacts on late summer water availability in unregulated rivers and streams (no large reservoirs) and alluvial aquifers. Identify uncertainty in using WY 2015 as an analog for climate change.

Find out more on the Washington Water Science Center website!