Water: What is the New Normal?

By Jennie Geurts, Administrative Assistant, CFWEImage

CFWE's Program Assistant Jennie Geurts

CFWE’s Program Assistant Jennie Geurts

The Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference is only a week away.  This year’s theme is “Water:  What is the New Normal?” This question immediately intrigued me – not only because I want to prepare for Colorado’s water future, but also because I’ve never had a good baseline for the “old normal.”

I am a transplant to Colorado.  I moved to Denver in August 2010, unsure of what to expect from my new state’s climate.  I soon discovered water is scarce – we need it, but it rarely falls in the form of rain.  Nevertheless, I braced myself for lots of snow.

My first winter was surprisingly mild.  Sure, it would snow, but then the temperature would jump back up to the 60s.  Was this normal?  I didn’t have enough information to judge.  Then the summer of 2011 rolled around and I was thrilled to experience near-daily thunderstorms.  Denver was lush and green…but was this normal?

The following March, temperatures spiked to the 80s.  Snow melted early and rushed down the mountainsides.  The long, hot summer of 2012 set in, breaking state records.  The devastating High Park and Waldo Canyon fires scorched our forests, filling our rivers with char.  It was completely unlike the previous summer.  Had I experienced anything “normal” yet?

I held my breath all last winter, watching the NRCS Snotel monitors.  Would Colorado face another year of severe drought?  Then the snows arrived – in the spring.  Everyone breathed a bit easier, but I still didn’t know what “normal” was.  And Colorado has continued to deliver climatic ups and downs.  This summer saw more devastating fires, followed by record-breaking floods.  What does this mean for Colorado’s water managers, farmers, recreationists, industrialists, and all citizens?

I hope to learn more at the conference next week.  It’s not just Colorado’s climate that we must consider in determining the “new normal,” and the conference’s panels and presentations explore many of these topics.  You can view the agenda on the conference’s webpage.  With so many different presentations, it’s hard to choose which to attend!  Here’s a sampling of the sessions:

Want to learn more about the changes to Colorado’s population, demographics, and economy? Changes to climate, hydrology, and forests – and how they all affect our water?  Check out Tuesday’s plenary session.

Interested in Colorado’s floods?  Come to the 4th Annual Stream Restoration panel.  Unless you want to learn about the “new normal” of watershed education – both are on Wednesday at 8:30.

How do fires affect watershed management?  Find out Wednesday at 10:30 with case studies from the High Park and Hayman fires.

What is the “new normal” in communications in the age of social media?  Learn more Wednesday at 1:30.

As you can see, the conference offers many more sessions to investigate the “new normal.” Looking over the agenda, which panels interest you the most?  Will I see you at the conference?  You can still register!

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