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NASA is hosting a group of CAP and ASU climate scientists this week in Portland, Oregon, to begin their study of current and future climate and land use changes and how these impact the Colorado River Basin.

Aerial View of the Colorado River

This is the result of a $1 million grant from NASA’s Earth Science Division, and is part of a larger effort by NASA to assist water managers with new tools to adapt to climate change and related issues.

This NASA Resources Team Meeting will focus on “Averting Drought Shortages in the Colorado River.” Their work will build on the historic Drought Contingency Plan, which acknowledged the need for new long-range planning and decision-support tools for water management agencies. CAP’s Colorado River Programs department and ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment are collaborating to incorporate NASA data into new hydrologic modeling products and tools as well as enhancements to the existing modeling and analysis framework.

“DCP was the culmination of negotiations that began in 2014, when water managers began modeling drier and hotter futures to ‘stress test’ the existing operating rules and management tools and we found the current regime to underperform under these conditions,” says Chuck Cullom, CAP’s Colorado River Programs manager. “As water managers, we recognize we will need new and enhanced tools to better inform our decision making moving forward. This partnership does just that – helps us to develop those tools we will need for the next set of operating regimes.”

Data collection for the study will involve “Earth-observing” satellites, as well as ground data from the US Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The data will be shared with other Colorado River Basin stakeholders to analyze the impacts of climate change on the Colorado River and in turn, to inform future decisions regarding the future of the Colorado River as a major water supply to the West.

The group convening this week will begin to look at land cover and the flow networks within the Colorado River Basin, taking into account eight different applications of climate modeling related to precipitation and temperature changes, as well as streamflow.

This meeting sets the stage for a future kick-off meeting to introduce other stakeholders to project goals and to receive feedback on the study design. To view the presentation from this week’s meeting, click here.

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