Water storage and delivery in the Western U.S. is enhanced by the natural mountain snowpack and the relatively slow delivery of snowmelt water. To satisfy the growing demands of population centers and agricultural industries, trans-basin diversion help move snowmelt water. For 60 million people, understanding the impacts of climate change on water sustainability, which is inherently linked with mountain snowpack and snowmelt timing, is crucial to sustaining agriculture and municipal water demands.

CWEST Participants: Noah Molotch, Patrick Bourgeron, Mark Williams, Adrian Harpold, Leanne Lestack, Olga Wilhelmi, Jelena Vukomanovic and Mark Raleigh. 
NCAR Scientists: David Gochis, David Yates, Ethan Gutman, Kevin Sampson, Kathleen Miller
Grad Students: Theo Barnhart, Dominik Schneider, Alice Hill, Keith Jennings and Qinghuan Zhang

Resource Pressures

Alpine snow and creek

Alpine snow and creek. Photo credit: Emily Baker

The quantity of water in the West is under growing pressure. Snowpack measurements over the past 50+ years suggest a broad scale reduction in snowpack water storage associated with regional warming- a trend that is particularly due to a shift from snowfall to rainfall. The increasing agricultural, industrial, and societal demands for water at the regional level adds stress to the system. Furthermore, land cover changes associated with population growth along the wildland-urban interface, fire suppression and mountain pine bark beetle outbreaks have altered the manner in which water moves across the landscape.


Climate-Snow-Ecosystem Feedback

Transbasin diversion Moffat, CO

Transbasin diversion in town of Moffat, CO.

In light of the above resource pressures, this project investigates climate-snow-ecosystem feedbacks to identify how these perturbations impact the operational procedures and legal agreements associated with water allocations and trans-basin diversions. On a broad scale, the WSC project emphasizes the climate-water nexus, the hydroclimate-ecosystems nexus, catchment hydrology-managed environment and water management and policy. At its core, the project improves characterization of the mountain snowpack via a synthesis of remotely sensed, ground-based and modeled snowpack information.


This project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). For more inforamtion please visit the Snowpack and Ecosystem Dynamics website.