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About the Intermountain West DEWS

map of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona and New MexicoThe Intermountain West Drought Early Warning System (IMW DEWS) grew out of the Upper Colorado River Basin DEWS (UCRB), which was established in 2009 as the first NIDIS DEWS in the U.S. The IMW DEWS incorporates the states of Arizona, Colorado, western New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming with the goal of fostering interstate coordination to cope with future droughts and growing water demands, and supporting increased communication and collaboration between scientific and water management communities.

Through a series of workshops, stakeholders identified several priorities for the original UCRB DEWS, including the needs to:

  • assess gaps in existing monitoring and forecasting systems
  • assimilate existing drought-related indicators, triggers and trends into one accessible location
  • improve interaction with the US Drought Portal ( to create a Colorado Basin drought portal and information clearinghouse 

The IMW DEWS Strategic Plan is under development and will be available in 2016. It will provide a framework of priority actions to further develop and implement the IMW DEWS over the next two years.

Activities and Resources

Monitoring & Prediction

  • Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Assessments: The Colorado Climate Center in collaboration with NIDIS, NWS, NRCS, Reclamation, and USGS, develops regular drought briefings for the region. Briefings are also available via webinar on a monthly or bi-weekly basis depending on the season. Register for the next webinar here .
  • Colorado Water Availability Task Force holds regular meetings to monitor conditions that affect Colorado’s water supply, including snowpack, precipitation, reservoir storage, streamflow and weather forecasts.
  • Western Water Assessment (WWA) Intermountain West Climate Dashboard: A series of graphics that provide an array of water and climate information for Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Monthly text briefings are also available.

Innovative Research, Applications & Assessments

  • Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) is a drought index that can serve as an indicator of both rapidly evolving “flash” droughts (developing over a few weeks) and sustained droughts (developing over months but lasting up to years). EDDI is being developed and tested in the UCRB DEWS.
  • Testing the utility of highly-resolved spatial snow data: As a follow up from three snowpack monitoring workshops held in late summer 2015 researchers at Western Water Assessment are now involved in developing two data products for high-resolution, spatially-explicit monitoring of snow-water equivalent (SWE) from remote sensing: a real-time MODIS –based SWE product, and NASA JPL Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) data. A wide range of stakeholders (including the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC)) will continue to be engaged to conduct usability assessments of this new data.
  • Drought Decision Analysis for Climate Adaptation: Researchers at WWA are conducting simulations of decision making to test the sensitivity of particular decision making process to events of varying duration and intensity or repeated events. In coordination with the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub, WWA is expanding the modeling effort to help rangers make herd management decisions in extreme drought, given uncertainties about the market, feed prices, and next year’s climate
  • Colorado Wildland Fire Prediction System: The state of Colorado has established a research and development partnership with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to develop a system for predicting wildland fire behavior. The system will provide information about the interactions between weather and fire, and will build upon a specialized computer model that was developed at NCAR with support by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Once operational, the system will be run by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
  • SECURE Water Act Report – Reclamation Climate Change and Water 2016: The Department of Interior (DOI), the Bureau of Reclamation and its state and local partners developed a basin-by-basin report that characterizes the impacts of climate change and details adaptation strategies to better protect major river basins in the West. The report shows several increased risks to western U.S. water resources in the 21st century including a specific chapter on the Colorado River Basin.
  • Wasatch Area Dendroclimatology Research Group (WADR) – WADR is an interdisciplinary research team that has recently used tree-ring-based techniques to reconstruct natural stream flows for the Bear, Logan and Weber Rivers and Great Salt Lake elevation.  WADR conducts research in collaboration with Utah Sate University, USDA Forest Service, Brigham Young University, Columbia University and Western Water Assessment a NOAA RISA team.  A driving force behind this research was to extend the record of stream flow and drought back 500-1,000 years ago to better inform Wasatch Front water managers about regional climate variability.  WADR actively engages Utah water managers to help determine the best strategies to apply stream flow reconstructions to water resource management and planning.

Engaging Preparedness & Adaptation Communities

  • Snowpack Workshops: In 2015 Western Water Assessment (WWA) and its partners convened a series of one-day workshops in Colorado
, Utah and Wyoming 
to help improve the usability of snowpack monitoring information for runoff forecasting, drought early warning, planning and other application. Learn more about these and other WWA workshops
Colorado Drought Planning Tool Box developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to assist water users throughout the state to better plan for and respond to drought.
  • Colorado Drought Tournament: In the Fall of 2012, NIDIS and the CWCB sponsored the Colorado Drought Tournament as an alternative method of engaging the Colorado water community in drought planning and preparedness. The tournament served as a precursor to the Colorado State Drought Conference and was organized by AMEC and supported by partners from the National Drought Mitigation Center and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Communication & Outreach

  • Wyoming Water Forum: The Wyoming State Engineers Office hosts monthly meetings (September – May) to share information and insight on the latest water-related topics throughout the West. Special programs are presented providing an in-depth review of a particular water-related issue or topic. The forum also provides an opportunity to provide updates on water-focused activities in an informal setting at the end of each presentation.
  • Department of Interior’s Drought in the Colorado River Basin Tool – Insights Using Open Data: A specialized web tool that shows the interconnected results of a reduced water supply as reservoir levels in the region have declined from nearly full to roughly 50% of capacity. Provides a visual depiction of the complexity of the nexus between water supply, water demand, and long-term drought in the CRB by connecting data from a variety of sources affiliated with the Open Water Data Initiative led by DOI’s U.S. Geological Survey.