Water Research in the US West

Lake Mead and Hoover Dam

Partnering to better understand mountain hydrology and water supply in the Western US

The US West is getting drier. After more than two decades of unrelenting drought, there is an urgent need for a more nuanced and accurate characterization of water availability, especially in mountains, which serve as critical water towers.  At AGCI, we collaborate with researchers and communities across the western US to advance understanding of the impacts of aridification in the region, improve methodologies, and enhance the accessibility of science that supports water-related decision making.

water research in the west projects

Roaring Fork Observation Network

Long-term research provides essential insights into how natural systems change over time. The Roaring Fork Observation Network (also known as “iRON”) is a community-driven program in the Colorado River headwaters designed to provide a long-term record of bioclimatic and soil moisture data to support research, resource management, and community engagement.

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Sublimation of Snow (SOS) Project

Snow sublimation is an important but poorly understood component of the water cycle. It occurs  when snowpack is lost to the atmosphere, turning directly into water vapor without melting first, bypassing the liquid water phase entirely. The National Science Foundation-funded Sublimation of Snow project seeks to advance knowledge of snow hydrology by collecting data on atmospheric conditions at and above the snow surface via Earth Observing Laboratory equipment deployed in Colorado’s East River Watershed. 

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Headwaters Hydrologic Test Bed (H2TB)

Climate change is forcing the Colorado River to meet a growing water demand with a shrinking water supply. AGCI and partners are mapping existing gaps and hubs in hydrologic research to identify opportunities for more effective collaboration on water research and management at the headwaters of the Colorado River.

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Parker Dam, Colorado River

Colorado River Science Wiki

The Colorado River Science Wiki is a web-based clearinghouse for scientific and technical information and data relevant to the Colorado River and management of its water and other natural resources. The wiki is intended to be useful to decision makers, scientists, the media, and the broader public.

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Supporting Water Reliability in the US West

Every five years, the Bureau of Reclamation submits a report to Congress on projected risks to water supplies, which highlights strategies for increasing water supply reliability across the western United States. In 2021, AGCI supported this effort by helping to write Reclamation’s Water Reliability in the West – 2021 SECURE Water Act Report and accompanying web portal, as well as Reclamation’s West-Wide Climate and Hydrology Assessment. Explore all three at https://www.usbr.gov/climate/secure/.

Two people conducting science research on green hillside

Sensing the signal in the soil

AGCI manages the Roaring Fork Observation Network (formerly iRON), a community- supported, long-term research program. Designed to improve understanding of mountain ecosystems and hydrology in the context of a changing climate, this program engages with local stakeholders to identify and address key questions around local climate change impacts.

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Water Research in the US West Team

Julie Vano

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Research Director

Elise Osenga

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Community Science Manager

Emilio Mateo

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Climate Science Fellow

Tanya Petach

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Climate Science Fellow

Rachel Buchler

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Summer Intern

Lauran Garcia

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Summer Intern

John Katzenberger

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Co-Founder, Senior Fellow

Liz Carver

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Communications Manager

James C. Arnott

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Executive Director

Asa DeHaan

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Seasonal Field Technician

Rachael Jones

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Research Intern

Jeff Lukas

Lukas Climate Research and Consulting
Principal Consultant