The Colorado Basin supplies water to more than 34 million people and irrigates over four million acres of cropland. As a whole, the basin supports about one-fifth of the nation's GDP. Snow is a particularly important feature of the water cycle in the Basin, and affects human wellbeing and the economy in every phase, whether snowfall, snowpack, or snowmelt.
This report describes many of the benefits and costs associated with snow and snowpack, with a focus on the Upper Colorado Basin (UCB). We explore some of the ecological and economic changes that can be expected from climate shifts, and discuss their significance throughout the UCB (and beyond). Finally, we point to a few policy responses that are attempting to mitigate and adapt to the risks associated with decreasing snowpack and water flows.
This report is an addendum to our 2015 report, Nature's Value in the Upper Colorado Basin.