Can you give us a “water report?” What can we expect in terms of drought for front range planting, gardening and landscaping?

| Climate Change

This question and answer are part of our Ask CSU Extension Anything (About Native Plants) series. We appreciate CSU Extension for answering these questions to expand our community’s knowledge of native plant landscaping. Send us your questions to the Ask CSU email account.


Can you give us a “water report?” What can we expect in terms of drought for front range planting (gardening/landscaping)? Plains, foothills, and all the mountain zones? In permaculture, we are always planting a little on the margins — for extra drought hardiness, and to be prepared for lots of water. Can you tell us what influences your assessment (topography, geology, soils, where we get our water, climate/weather predictions via NWS, etc.)?


Models for 2024 point to a “normal” or “near-normal” year in terms of precipitation for most of Colorado including the Front Range. The U.S. Drought Monitor and NOAA are two excellent resources for finding information about not only predicted precipitation, but temperature and soil moisture as well.  (The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). These are great resources to get a general sense of what is predicted in terms of moisture for your region.

The University of Nebraska, in conjunction with other Universities, including CSU, puts a particular focus on plant productivity with the “Grass Cast” tool, which uses climate models to predict rangeland productivity. The tool is designed with ranchers in mind, but the productivity predictions could be extended to all plants in a region.

A lot of information is in these websites, and generating and interpreting models is always potentially fraught. A lecture by Becky Bollinger, Assistant State Climatologist for Colorado, highlights the nuances of interpreting climate predictions and the climatological basics for both Western and Eastern Colorado:

  • Lecture video – beginning at 23:40, Bollinger (and colleagues on the webinar) do an excellent job of explaining the nuance of predicting drought and drought affects.   

For longer term predictions of climate, the Climate Change in Colorado Report (the most recent study, released just this year) is perhaps the most comprehensive local reference available. The report summarizes climate predictions for Colorado over the next decades, and is particularly relevant for planning by water providers.

Answer developed by: John Murgel (Extension County Specialist, Horticulture and Natural Resources, Douglass County) Colorado State University Extension.

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