Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



Earth and Atmospheric Sciences


South Platte, Climate, Drought


The South Platte River Basin has been identified as an area experiencing water overuse, making conflicts and shortages likely during times of drought. This study used multiple sources of climate and water consumption data to better understand climate and water consumption changes during drought: North American regional Reanalyses (NARR), Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS), United States Geological Survey (USGS), and Colorado Decision Support System (CDSS). A water budget was constructed for the South Platte River Basin during 1979-2006 and for the sub-periods 1990-1999 (above-average precipitation) and 2000-2006 (below-average precipitation, drought). The main focus, the drought period, revealed above-average use for public consumption in surface and ground water and above-average agriculture groundwater consumption. Water-conserving responses during drought years were limited to municipal restrictions with little indication of improvements in irrigation methods and minimal switching to dry-land crops. The drought and lack of response to it had severe impacts on the economy,lowering harvests and decreasing revenue in the region. It was revealed that Colorado water law helps shape the response to drought of the water budget for the South Platte River Basin and needs to be taken into account in proposing better approaches to conserving water during drought.

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