Water & Energy
The relationship between water and energy is complex. Learn from CU-Boulder scientists about the key role water plays in most forms of energy production and how a warming planet impacts our water resources. Watch the Emmy-nominated video "Water: A Zero Sum Game" and explore other resources to learn about water and its connections with climate, energy, and more.
Water in the Intermountain West
What does the West’s water supply look like today? Use these graphs to investigate current data on precipitation, snowpack, drought intensity, and reservoir storage. These graphs are taken from the Intermountain West Climate Dashboard by the Western Water Assessment and are updated daily for decision making support for water managers and users. Find ideas for using these graphs in the classroom and tips for water conservation in your school.
- 30-day Precipitation as a % of Average
High Plains Regional Climate Center (Updated daily)
- Water Year (2014) Precipitation as a % of Average
High Plains Regional Climate Center (Updated daily)
- Current Snowpack as a % of Median
National Resource Conservation Service (Updated daily)
- Upper Colorado Reservoir Storage
Bureau of Reclamation (Updated daily)
- US Drought Monitor
National Drought Mitigation Center (Updated weekly)
- Current Streamflow - Colorado US Geological Survey (Updated daily) Key to Percentile Classes
Find more graphs and review the Western Water Assessment’s monthly summaries at the Intermountain West Climate Dashboard.
CU-Boulder's Western Water Assessment uses research to address societal vulnerabilities related to climate, particularly in the area of water resources for the Intermountain West.
Climate or Weather: What's the Difference?
Ask students to explain which graphs represent weather, which graphs represent climate, or if some graphs represent both weather and climate.
You Make the Call: Decision Making
Use the following scenarios for a role-playing exercise with student:
You are the water manager for a suburb of Denver that draws from streams and reservoirs in both the South Platte and Colorado River watersheds (map of the Denver Water collection system). Nearly all of your annual water supply comes from snowmelt in the spring. If you expect a below-normal water supply (less than 80% of normal) this year, you will need to arrange ahead of time to buy water from local farmers to supplement your supply. This is very expensive, but if you don't do it, your city might run out of water. Which information on the mini-dashboard would you look at to decide whether to buy water this spring? Given that information, would you buy water? Why or why not? What additional information would you want before you make a decision? Are there other choices beyond purchasing water that could make up the water shortfall for your city?
How Does Your Water Footprint Measure Up?
Have students calculate their household water usage using Graces Water Footprint Calculator (gallons/day), then convert to gallons/year, and then convert to acre-feet/year(1 acre-foot = 325,851 gallons). Next, have them find how many acre-feet of water are stored in the closest reservoir in the Upper Colorado Reservoir Storage graph (current acre-feet stored is the first number in the line beneath the reservoir name). How many years would the reservoir last if just the student's household were using it? If the whole city had the same water usage as the student? The whole state? Compare results among students.
Water Now and Water Then
Ask students to find historic precipitation averages in their hometown for the current climate period (1981-2010) and a past climate period (30 year period). Find historic annual precipitation records through the United States Historical Climatology Network. Select your hometown (or the closest town to it), "Get Monthly Data," and select "Annual Precipitation (PRECIP)" under #4. Have students compare the climate periods and discuss changes in precipitation, and hypothesize causes and implications of changes (if there are any).
From daily habits to a water audit, here are some toolkits to help you conserve water in your school:
Average: In the figures above, "average" describes the statistical mean of data from years 1981-2010.
Drought: The US Drought Monitor map uses drought indicators including (but not limited to) the Palmer Drought Severity Index, soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation, measures of vegetation stress, and reports of drought impacts.
Intermountain West: The geographic and geological region located between the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada on the west in known as the Intermountain West
Percentile (as used in the USGS Streamflow Map): A value on a scale of one hundred that indicates the percent of a distribution that is equal to or below it. For example, on the map of daily streamflow conditions, a river discharge at the 90th percentile is equal to or greater than 90 percent of the discharge values recorded on this day of the year during all years that measurements have been made. [from USGS]
Water Year: From October 1 of the preceding year to September 31 of the following year. Hydrologists use this time period to capture the snowpack and snowmelt of one year, beginning with snowpack accumulation in the preceding October. For example, water year 2014 begins October 1, 2013 and ends September 31, 2014.
Learn more about the graphs above on the Western Water Assessment's "About the Dashboard Graphics" page.
University of Colorado Boulder Institutes and Programs
Western Water Assessment identifies regional vulnerability to climate change, and develops information, products and processes to assist water-resource decision makers throughout the intermountain west.
The Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment is dedicated to informing and influencing natural resources law and policy. The Center fosters practical and effective solutions to resource problems through its extensive research program, outreach activities, and educational programs for law students and the general public.
|The Center of the American West takes as its mission the creation of forums for the respectful exchange of ideas and perspectives in the pursuit of solutions to the region's difficulties. Projects address such critical issues as energy, the interior, mining, water, land use and more.|
The Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) develops scientific knowledge of physical and biochemical environmental processes at local, regional and global scales. It applies this knowledge to improve society's awareness and understanding of natural and anthropogenic (human caused) environmental change, focusing on the world's high-altitude and high-latitude regions.
The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC) is an interdisciplinary program that provides an educational and research environment to examine the dynamical, physical, and chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere and the ocean.
Science Discovery is an experience-based, educational outreach program that stimulates scientific interest, understanding, and literacy among Colorado's youth, teachers, and families.
The Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels (C2B2) is a cooperative research and educational center devoted to the conversion of biomass fuels and other products.
The Renewable and Sustainable Energy Initiative at CU-Boulder is a joint institute with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) designed to become an international force in solving the energy challenge through research, education, and technology commercialization.
The Center for Energy and Environmental Security (CEES) works to develop practical strategies and solutions for moving international society toward a global sustainable energy future. CEES addresses issues of energy security and climate change.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center
NSIDC supports research into our world's frozen realms: the snow, ice, glaciers, frozen ground, and climate interactions that make up Earth's cryosphere. NSIDC manages and distributes scientific data, creates tools for data access, supports data users, performs scientific research, and educates the public about the cryosphere. Learn more about NSIDC.
The following NSIDC interactive tools and maps have been recommended to Learn More About Climate, especially for educators and students:
Satellite Observations of Arctic Change
This is a new, interactive mapping tool that lets people explore satellite and other data on changes in the Arctic environment.
Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis
Daily and monthly updates on sea ice conditions.
Use Charctic, interactive graph of ice extent, to explore the data and set up their own comparisons.
Greenland Ice Sheet Today
Updates on surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
In Time Of Drought
Alfalfa grown with Colorado River water is a case study of how and why water gets used as it does.
Why Farmers Care About Snowpack
Like much of the far West, northern Nevada is in the grips of a historic drought. The federal government has declared much of the region a disaster area. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is at historically low levels. That means feed will be in short supply, which is a big deal, because the alfalfa that's grown here doesn't just stay local. NPR talked with Pete Olsen about drought on his fifth-generation dairy farm in Fallon, Nevada.
Oil & Gas Water Quality Interactive Maps
The Intermountain Oil & Gas Best Practices Program provides a platform for the systematic collection, measurement and display of state-level laws. It is a resource for researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and the public. Use the Interactive Law Maps pages below to generate maps and tables. Highlight selected features of the law as it exists today, or see how it has changed over time.
These maps and tables are generated from policy surveillance datasets that are produced by Publish Health Law Research staff, grantees and outside sources. For more information about the methods of collecting this data, please visit the Law Atlas website.