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Colorado River Basin

Colorado River Basin Current Conditions

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. This map shows the drought conditions of the Colorado River Basin watershed, using a five-category system, from Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions to Exceptional Drought (D4). The USDM is a joint effort of the National Drought Mitigation Center, USDA, and NOAA. Learn more.

This map shows the departure from normal temperature over the past 30 days, compared to usual conditions for the same time period averaged from 1991–2020.

This map uses the gridMET and PRISM temperature datasets, and temperature data are updated daily, with a delay of 3 to 4 days. Learn more.

This map shows the percent of normal precipitation for the past 30 days, compared to the usual conditions for the same time period averaged from 1991–2020.

This map uses the gridMET and NLDAS precipitation datasets, and precipitation data are updated daily, with a delay of 3 to 4 days. Learn more.

D0 - Abnormally Dry
  • Short-term dryness slowing planting, growth of crops.
  • Some lingering water deficits
  • Pastures or crops not fully recovered
0
of Colorado River Basin
(D0-D4)
D1 - Moderate Drought
  • Some damage to crops, pastures
  • Some water shortages developing
  • Voluntary water-use restrictions requested
0
of Colorado River Basin
(D1-D4)
D2 - Severe Drought
  • Crop or pasture loss likely
  • Water shortages common
  • Water restrictions imposed
0
of Colorado River Basin
(D2-D4)
D3 - Extreme Drought
  • Major crop/pasture losses
  • Widespread water shortages or restrictions
0
of Colorado River Basin
(D3-D4)
D4 - Exceptional Drought
  • Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses
  • Shortages of water creating water emergencies
0
of Colorado River Basin
(D4)
Departure from Normal Temperature (°F)
Range Map Hex Color
- -8 #0404ff
-8 - -6 #2166ac
-6 - -4 #4393c3
-4 - -3 #92c5de
-3 - -1 #d1e5f0
-1 - 0 #ffffff
Range Map Hex Color
0 - 1 #ffffff
1 - 3 #fddbc7
3 - 4 #f4a582
4 - 6 #d6604d
6 - 8 #b2182b
8 - #800000
Percent of Normal Precipitation (%)
Range Map Hex Color
0% - 25% #8c510a
25% - 50% #bf812d
50% - 75% #dfc27d
75% - 100% #f6e8c3
Range Map Hex Color
100% - 150% #c7eae5
150% - 200% #80cdc1
200% - 300% #35978f
300% - #01665e

Short-Term Drought Indicator Blend

These experimental drought blends integrate several key drought monitoring products and indices into a single short-term or long-term product, based on the methodology developed at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. The blends are created using the Climate Engine tool, and apply the CPC weighting ratios to the high-resolution gridMET gridded research dataset.

The short-term blend combines PDSI, Z-Index, 1-month SPI, and 3-month SPI to estimate the overall short-term drought. Please refer to the product documentation for more information. This product is an example of current NIDIS-funded research.

These data are updated every 5 days, with a delay of 4 to 5 days to allow for data collection and quality control.

D4 D3 D2 D1 D0  
0-2 2-5 5-10 10-20 20-30 30-70
W0 W1 W2 W3 W4
70-80 80-90 90-95 95-98 98-100

Click here for more information about this legend

Experimental

Long-Term Drought Indicator Blend

These experimental drought blends integrate several key drought monitoring products and indices into a single short-term or long-term product, based on the methodology developed at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. The blends are created using the Climate Engine tool, and apply the CPC weighting ratios to the high-resolution gridMET gridded research dataset.

The long-term blend combines PDSI, Z-Index, and 6-month, 1-year, 2-year, and 5-year SPI to estimate the overall long-term drought. Please refer to the product documentation for more information. This product is an example of current NIDIS-funded research.

These data are updated every 5 days, with a delay of 4 to 5 days to allow for data collection and quality control.

D4 D3 D2 D1 D0  
0-2 2-5 5-10 10-20 20-30 30-70
W0 W1 W2 W3 W4
70-80 80-90 90-95 95-98 98-100

Click here for more information about this legend

Experimental
Agriculture in Colorado River Basin

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture, including agricultural commodities statistics for crops and livestock. This map displays crops and livestock by county alongside the current U.S. Drought Monitor. Learn more.

Crop Production (Acres)

A circle with the radius of 20 pixels identifies:
> 500,000
A circle with the radius of 16 pixels identifies:
> 300,000
A circle with the radius of 12 pixels identifies:
> 100,000
A circle with the radius of 8 pixels identifies:
≤ 100,000

Crop Production (Acres)

A circle with the radius of 20 pixels identifies:
> 500,000
A circle with the radius of 16 pixels identifies:
> 300,000
A circle with the radius of 12 pixels identifies:
> 100,000
A circle with the radius of 8 pixels identifies:
≤ 100,000

Crop Production (Acres)

A circle with the radius of 20 pixels identifies:
> 500,000
A circle with the radius of 16 pixels identifies:
> 300,000
A circle with the radius of 12 pixels identifies:
> 100,000
A circle with the radius of 8 pixels identifies:
≤ 100,000

Livestock Count

A circle with the radius of 20 pixels identifies:
> 500,000
A circle with the radius of 16 pixels identifies:
> 300,000
A circle with the radius of 12 pixels identifies:
> 100,000
A circle with the radius of 8 pixels identifies:
≤ 100,000

Livestock Count

A circle with the radius of 20 pixels identifies:
> 500,000
A circle with the radius of 16 pixels identifies:
> 300,000
A circle with the radius of 12 pixels identifies:
> 100,000
A circle with the radius of 8 pixels identifies:
≤ 100,000
U.S. Drought Monitor
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #ff6600
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
2,297,893
acres of hay (estimated) in drought (D1–D4)
285,114
acres of wheat (estimated) in drought (D1–D4)
195,074
acres of cotton (estimated) in drought (D1–D4)
966,549
number of sheep (estimated) in drought (D1–D4)
942,487
number of cattle (estimated) in drought (D1–D4)
Water Supply in Colorado River Basin

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) produces maps of real-time streamflow conditions compared to historical conditions. The map depicts streamflow conditions as computed at USGS streamgages. The colors represent real-time streamflow compared to percentiles of historical daily streamflow for the day of the year. Learn more.

The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) produces precipitation outlooks for the U.S., including 6-10 day, 8-14 day, monthly, and seasonal outlooks. This 1-month outlook depicts whether there is a greater chance for above-normal or below-normal precipitation conditions over the next month. Learn more.

Streamflow Conditions
Value Map Hex Color
Low #ff0000
Much Below Normal #b12121
Below Normal #ffa400
Normal #00ff00
Above Normal #40dfd0
Much Above Normal #0000ff
High #000000
Not Ranked #FFFFFF
U.S. Drought Monitor
Value Map Hex Color
D0 #ffff00
D1 #ffcc99
D2 #ff6600
D3 #ff0000
D4 #660000
Probability (Percent Chance) of Below-Normal Precipitation
Range Map Hex Color
33% - 40% #f0d493
40% - 50% #d8a750
50% - 60% #bb6d33
60% - 70% #9b5031
70% - 80% #934639
80% - 90% #804000
90% - 100% #4f2f2f
Probability (Percent Chance) of Above-Normal Precipitation
Range Map Hex Color
33% - 40% #b3d9ab
40% - 50% #94cd7e
50% - 60% #48ae38
60% - 70% #3a7b5f
70% - 80% #008e40
80% - 90% #28553d
90% - 100% #285517
42
percent of streamflow sites are below normal
11
percent of streamflow sites are above normal
2
percent of the Colorado River Basin has below-normal precipitation probability this month
52
percent of the Colorado River Basin has above-normal precipitation probability this month

Historical Conditions for the Colorado River Basin

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is a national map released every Thursday, showing parts of the U.S. that are in drought. The USDM relies on drought experts to synthesize the best available data and work with local observers to interpret the information. The USDM also incorporates ground truthing and information about how drought is affecting people, via a network of more than 450 observers across the country, including state climatologists, National Weather Service staff, Extension agents, and hydrologists. Learn more.

Time Period (Years): to

Drought in the Colorado River Basin

Reliance on Colorado River Water Resources

The Colorado River provides water to almost 40 million people in two countries, seven states, 29 federally recognized Indian tribes, and 4 million acres of farmland. According to a University of Arizona study, the Colorado River supports $1.4 trillion in annual economic activityequivalent to 1/12th of total U.S. gross domestic productand 16 million jobs in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Since 2000, historically dry conditions have added stress to the Colorado River’s already over-allocated water resources.

Story Map: Drought in the Colorado River Basin

Since 2000, the Colorado River basin has been experiencing a historic, extended drought that has impacted regional water supply and other resources, such as hydropower, recreation, and ecological goods and services services.

Learn more about the current 16-year drought and its effects on the Colorado River basin through this story map, which was created by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Colorado Basin River Forecast Center

View river, snow, and reservoir conditions; forecasts of temperature, precipitation, water supply and peak flows; soil moisture conditions and other data, maps, and tools for the Colorado River through the National Weather Service Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC).

The CBRFC is responsible for monitoring and forecasting climate conditions for the entire Colorado River basin and the Great Basin, covering an area of 303,450 square miles.

Colorado River Interim Guidelines and the Drought Contingency Plan

Since 2008, Lake Mead and Lake Powell have been operated in accordance with the 2007 Record of Decision for the Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The Guidelines define operating procedures during drought and low reservoir conditions to minimize shortages in the Lower Colorado basin and avoid the risk of curtailment in the Upper Colorado basin. These Guidelines remain in effect through 2025. In advance of negotiating new Guidelines, in 2020 the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued a report on an assessment of effectiveness of the Guidelines. A key conclusion of the report was that “increasing severity of the drought necessitated additional action to reduce the risk of reaching critically low elevations in Lakes Powell and Mead.”

In addition, to reduce the risk of Lake Powell and Lake Mead declining to critically low levels, in December 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior called on the seven Colorado River basin states to put drought contingency plans in place before the end of 2018. Congress approved the plan submitted by the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming as the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act on April 16, 2019.

Lake Mead showing low water levels