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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.

The 30-day departure from normal temperature shows the difference of the last 30 days from the usual conditions for the same time period averaged since 1980.

This map uses the gridMET and PRISM temperature datasets, which are updated daily with a delay of 3 to 4 days to allow for data collection and quality control.

The 30-day percent of normal precipitation shows the difference of the last 30 days from the usual conditions for the same time period averaged since 1980.

This map uses the gridMET and NLDAS precipitation datasets, which are delayed from the current day by 2 to 3 days to allow for data collection and quality control.

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)

The color with the hex code #0404ff identifies:
≤ -8
The color with the hex code #2166ac identifies:
-6
The color with the hex code #4393c3 identifies:
-4
The color with the hex code #92c5de identifies:
-3
The color with the hex code #d1e5f0 identifies:
-1
The color with the hex code #ffffff identifies:
0

The color with the hex code #fddbc7 identifies:
1
The color with the hex code #f4a582 identifies:
3
The color with the hex code #d6604d identifies:
4
The color with the hex code #b2182b identifies:
6
The color with the hex code #800000 identifies:
8

Percent of Normal Precipitation (%)

The color with the hex code #8c510a identifies:
0% - 25%
The color with the hex code #bf812d identifies:
25% - 50%
The color with the hex code #dfc27d identifies:
50% - 75%
The color with the hex code #f6e8c3 identifies:
75% - 100%

The color with the hex code #c7eae5 identifies:
100% - 150%
The color with the hex code #80cdc1 identifies:
150% - 200%
The color with the hex code #35978f identifies:
200% - 300%
The color with the hex code #01665e identifies:
≥ 300%
Short-Term Drought Indicator Blend
EXPERIMENTAL

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 data is updated daily, with a delay of 2 to 3 days to allow for data collection and quality control.

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.

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

* Currently, data are only available for the contiguous U.S.
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

04/07/21
Long-Term Drought Indicator Blend
EXPERIMENTAL

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 data is updated daily, with a delay of 2 to 3 days to allow for data collection and quality control.

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.

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

* Currently, data are only available for the contiguous U.S.
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

03/02/21
Agriculture in the 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 shows agricultural products alongside the current U.S. Drought Monitor. Learn more.

* Currently, data are only available for the contiguous U.S.
 

County with Selected Agriculture Product

 

D0 - Abnormally Dry

 

D1 - Moderate Drought

 

D2 - Severe Drought

 

D3 - Extreme Drought

 

D4 - Exceptional Drought

2,297,893
acres of Hay
285,114
acres of Wheat
195,074
acres of Cotton
966,549
number of Sheep
942,487
number of Cattle
Water Supply in the 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. Click on a streamgage to view more data for that location. Learn more.

 
Low
 

Much below normal

 
Below normal
 

Normal

 
Above normal
 

Much above normal

 
High
 

Not ranked

The National Weather Service (NWS) 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, below-normal, or near-normal precipitation conditions in this region. Learn more.

Probability of Below-Normal Precipitation

The color with the hex code #f0d493 identifies:
> 33%
The color with the hex code #d8a750 identifies:
> 40%
The color with the hex code #bb6d33 identifies:
> 50%
The color with the hex code #9b5031 identifies:
> 60%
The color with the hex code #934639 identifies:
> 70%
The color with the hex code #804000 identifies:
> 80%
The color with the hex code #4f2f2f identifies:
> 90%

Probability of Above-Normal Precipitation

The color with the hex code #b3d9ab identifies:
> 33%
The color with the hex code #94cd7e identifies:
> 40%
The color with the hex code #48ae38 identifies:
> 50%
The color with the hex code #3a7b5f identifies:
> 60%
The color with the hex code #008e40 identifies:
> 70%
The color with the hex code #28553d identifies:
> 80%
The color with the hex code #285517 identifies:
> 90%

U.S. Drought Monitor

The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
D0
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
D1
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
D2
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
D3
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
D4
38
percent flow below normal
25
percent flow above normal
0
percent expecting below normal precipitation
39
percent expecting above normal precipitation

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