Monitoring project will help Colorado communities prepare for water shortages

Nine stations in the Roaring Fork Valley are gathering information about the moisture stored in soil.


From flooded streets to withering crops, some signs of climate change are hard to ignore. Other consequences are less obvious, but that does not mean they’re any less important.

James Arnott is executive director of the Aspen Global Change Institute. He says rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns can affect how much moisture is stored in soil. And that has wide-ranging implications.

“It’s the water that’s available for plants,” he says. “It’s also water that contributes to runoff that goes into streams that is available for communities to draw upon for irrigation and drinking water.”

Learning more about how climate change affects soil moisture can help communities make better projections about available drinking water supplies.

“Those projections can be improved if you have things that are these kind of hidden signals like soil moisture,” Arnott says.

So the Aspen Global Change Institute helped launch a soil moisture monitoring project at nine locations across Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley.

“What we can start to see are how extreme events play out, what it looks like both above ground and below ground,” Arnott says.

That data will help nearby communities better predict problems such as water shortages so they can take steps to prepare.
Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.