Hydrologic Scenarios for Severe Sustained Drought in the Southwestern United States

David G. Tarboton, Utah State University


This paper considers the risk of drought and develops drought scenarios for use in the study of severe sustained drought in the Southwestern United States. The focus is on the Colorado River Basin and regions to which Colorado River water is exported, especially southern California, which depends on water from the Colorado River. Drought scenarios are developed using estimates of unimpaired historic streamflow as well as reconstructions of streamflow based on tree ring widths. Drought scenarios in the Colorado River Basin are defined on the basis of annual flow at Lees Ferry. The risk, in terms of return period, of the drought scenarios developed, is assessed using stochastic models.