Media Tip Sheet: Drought

Colorado State Climate Center hub of drought information

The Colorado Climate Center, housed in Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science, provides information and expertise on weather and climate patterns for the state of Colorado. The Climate Center was established in 1974 through Colorado State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station and provides outreach and service to the public as well as complete analyses of Colorado’s weather. Through its threefold program of climate monitoring, climate research and climate services, the center provides Colorado climate information on the Web at and in Colorado Climate magazine. Contact Brad Bohlander at (970) 491-1545 or for more information.

Roger A. Pielke was appointed State Climatologist beginning May 1999 and also is professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State. Pielke is available to discuss drought and associated vulnerabilities as well as other Colorado-related climate and weather information. Pielke also is available to discuss mesoscale weather and climate processes, meteorological modeling, atmospheric dynamics, climate change and air pollution meteorology. To talk with Pielke, contact Brad Bohlander at (970) 491-1545 or

Climatologist Nolan J. Doesken has been with the Colorado Climate Center since 1977 and also serves as director of the Colorado State University historic main campus weather station, which has been in continuous operation since 1889. Doesken is available to discuss drought, weather observation, weather instruments, historical climate data, descriptive climatology, precipitation and seasonal weather patterns. He also can address agricultural, recreational, hydrologic and industrial applications of climate information. To speak with Doeskin, contact Brad Bohlander at (970) 491-1545 or

Water conservation and landscapes become focus during dry summers
When a drought hits, Coloradans start to worry about conserving water while preserving landscapes. Guidelines for yards and landscapes can help reduce water use and water waste while still supporting plant growth. Tricks of the trade range from how soil is prepared to which plants are selected to irrigation strategies. These tricks become especially important if water restrictions are enforced during a dry season. Carl Wilson, Colorado State Cooperative Extension horticulture agent in Denver County, can share this information as well as specifics about water use and water conservation guidelines he is helping to develop with GreenCo (Green Industries of Colorado, which includes nurseries, greenhouses and landscape companies). Wilson also can offer information about which plants will survive a dry year, which plants won’t and how to get the best performance out of specific landscape plants during a drought. To talk with Wilson, contact Mary Pat Adams at (303) 271-6634 or Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009.

Lawsuits, drilling and other issues complicate dry spring
In a dry year, well-developed resources for water are worth their weight in gold. But a number of issues plague Colorado, including lawsuits against the state of Colorado that may curtail residents’ access to water in the Arkansas, South Platte and Republican river basins. In addition, during a drought farmers may rely more heavily on wells to nurture crops. A recent Supreme Court case may limit the amount of water that can be pumped from wells in some river basins, complicating matters even more for farmers. The nation’s move towards drilling additional sources of energy domestically also is complicating matters. In the southeast, Western Slope and south-central regions of the state, coal bed methane development for natural gas wells is drawing down the water table in some places, while causing water to run on the surface where it hasn’t in the past. Reagan Waskom, Colorado State Cooperative Extension water resources specialist, can discuss all of these water issues and how they might accentuate the effects of a drought in Colorado. To talk with Reagan Waskom, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at 970-491-6009 or

Live on a few acres? Know how to maximize water
Many people along the Front Range own a few acres to support small crops or a few animals. The dry weather Colorado has experienced over the past several years will affect how these acreages – and the animals, plants and water included on each property – should be managed. Dennis Lamm, Colorado State Cooperative Extension specialist, can discuss, for example, issues such as water use for irrigating small pastures and crops, fire concerns, special provisions that should be set aside for animal feed and other topics small acreage owners should keep in mind during a dry year. To talk with Dennis Lamm, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at 970-491-6009 or

State drought task force in full swing
Jeff Tranel, Colorado State Cooperative Extension agricultural economist, is a member of the state of Colorado’s drought task force. In addition to providing insight into that task force’s role and actions for the state, Tranel can discuss drought from an economic standpoint, particularly how it affects ranchers. If an area is declared to have drought or other weather-related disaster, there may be tax implications for individual producers if they must sell some animals because feed is not available to them. In addition, Tranel can discuss some strategies for farmers and ranchers who may face tough decisions if dry conditions continue throughout the summer. To talk with Jeff Tranel, contact Jason Crowe at 719-549-2057 or, or Dell Rae Moellenberg at 970-491-6009 or

Conditions of grassland threatened by drought
The grasslands that livestock depend upon for food in the summer are threatened by dry weather. When summer grass runs out or doesn’t have enough moisture develop in the spring, ranchers have to choose either to sell cattle or purchase feed. John Ortmann, Colorado State Cooperative Extension rangeland specialist, can discuss how that decision can be made and also can talk about the effects of drought on rangelands and livestock. Ortmann also co-chairs the Cooperative Extension drought task force, which helps provide drought-survival information to farmers, ranchers and other Coloradans who are effected. To speak with Ortmann, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at 970-491-6009 or

For more information about drought, visit Additional detailed information about drought related issues is available by searching the background link with the key word "drought."