Autumn at Silver Jack Reservoir at drought levels near Ridgway Colorado

On June 22, 2020, Governor Jared Polis activated Colorado’s Drought Task Force and Phase 2 of the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan to respond to deepening drought conditions across the state. 'Phase 2' indicates officially directing the Drought Task Force to assess initial damages and impacts of drought in areas experiencing severe or extreme drought and to recommend mitigation measures. This Phase also activates the Agricultural Impact Task Force, which will conduct an initial assessment on physical and economic impacts and recommend opportunities for incident mitigation.

How can I stay up to date on drought conditions?

There are many resources!

  1. The CWCB's Water Availability Task Force meets once a month to review past conditions and near term outlooks. Meetings are open to the public, but if you cant make it, webinar recordings, all presentations, and monthly summaries are provided here.
  2. Explore the drought meter to the right for quick links to state snowpack maps, reservoir levels, US Drought Monitor maps (updated weekly on Thursday AM), and the monthly WATF summary.
  3. Visit the Colorado Climate Center's beautiful drought dashboard for essential graphics tracking state climate conditions.
  4. Submit questions to CWCB on Twitter at @CO_H2O or tag #codrought2020 with your local observations, reports, or drought images.
  5. Want more? See this comprehensive drought information resource list courtesy of Western Water Assessment.
I am impacted by current drought conditions and seeking state assistance. Where do I start?

If at any time you would like to discuss impacts to your region, personal livelihood, or citizen concerns, please reach out to megan.holcomb@state.co.us

Agricultural producers: We have an entire team (the Ag Impact Task Force) dedicated to supporting you during this drought season. The Ag Task Force meets biweekly, co-chaired by CO Dept of Agriculture and CO State University Water Center. Please email nora.flynn@colostate.edu with your questions/concerns.

Tag #codrought2020 and @CO_H2O on Twitter with your local observations, photos, or comments!

Does the activated State Drought Plan open up financial assistance?

Yes, primarily Federal emergency assistance. The CWCB manages two emergency drought funds in addition to year-round Drought Planning Grants:
1) Flood & Drought Response Fund for limited emergency response to both droughts and floods
2) Agricultural Emergency Drought Response Program for emergency ag water augmentation

NEW RESOURCE: Review a comprehensive summary of state and federal drought-related financial assistance HERE.


What is a drought declaration?

Drought declarations are traditionally made by public officials and may be made at the local, state and federal level. In Colorado, the Water Availability Task Force is responsible for assessing drought conditions and recommends to the governor when an official drought declaration should be made. Water providers can also officially declare a drought. Water restrictions and other drought response measures may be enforced following local drought declarations.

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Drought Basics

What is drought?

Drought is a normal, recurrent feature of Colorado’s climate but without adequate mitigation and response, it can be very destructive. Drought is a shortage of water associated with a lack of precipitation. It occurs when a normal amount of moisture is unavailable to satisfy an area’s usual water consumption. Drought can appear slowly and last for many years or it can be a short-lived event. It also can occur locally, regionally or statewide. Drought’s impact on society results from the interplay between a natural event, demands for water supply and the economic and environmental impacts that can result.

How is drought classified?

The United States Drought Monitor map, updated for the country every Thursday, identifies areas experiencing drought and labels them by intensity. D1 is the least intense level and D4 the most intense. Drought is defined as a moisture deficit bad enough to have social, environmental or economic effects

D0 areas are not in drought, but are experiencing abnormally dry conditions that could turn into drought or are recovering from drought but are not yet back to normal.

Chart of US Drought Monitor Categories with descriptions and numerical ranges













How does drought impact Colorado?

Drought is a prevalent natural phenomenon in Colorado. Single season droughts over some portion of the State are extremely common. Prolonged periods of drought develop slowly over several years and are cyclical in nature. With Colorado’s semiarid climate, there will always be a concern for water availability within the State.

There are many visual resources to help answer this question.

  • These new (May 2020) Storymap case studies review how drought impacts Colroado's outdoor recreation and agriculture industries.
  • The new (May 2020) Future Avoided Cost Explorer quantifies direct impacts of current and future droughts on select sectors of the Colorado economy.
  • The Drought Vulnerability Tool (March 2019) at the bottom of this page takes users through visual summaries of Colorado drought risk by sectors, based on Colorado’s 2018 Drought Plan
Does Colorado have a plan?

Yes! An advanced plan! The Colorado Drought Mitigation & Response Plan (2018) provides an effective means for the State to reduce the impacts of water shortages over the short and long term. The Plan outlines procedures for coordinated drought monitoring, impact assessment, response to emergency drought problems, and mitigation of long term drought impacts. There are three major components of the plan: mitigation, response and vulnerability assessments.

Full Plan (all appendices & annexes ~45 MB)

Should my city/region plan for drought?

So glad you asked. 

The CWCB’s Drought Planning Toolbox is designed to assist water users throughout the state with their efforts in planning and response to a drought. Explore the toolbox to find drought information and data, as well as a comprehensive suite of planning resources, financial assistance and tools.

What is the difference between Drought Mitigation Planning and Water Efficiency Planning?

It is common to confuse drought mitigation planning and water efficiency planning.

  • The goal of drought mitigation planning is to ensure an uninterrupted supply of water in an amount sufficient to satisfy essential needs. Drought response measures can include mandatory restrictions on certain water uses, water allocation or the temporary use of an alternative water supply. These measures are intended to be temporary responses to water supply shortages.
  • The goal of water efficiency planning is to achieve lasting, long-term improvements in water use efficiency. Water efficient measures can include managing landscape irrigation, implementing efficiency based water rate structures, replacing or retrofitting water fixtures and similar efforts.

Check out Colorado's Drought Vulnerability Visualization Tool
to see how your community may be impacted

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Point of Contact

Megan Holcomb