Keeping Track of Wyoming’s Water and Climate at the Water Resources Data SystemWritten by Chris Nicholson
By Chris Nicholson, Water Resources Data System Director
Do you need water and climate data? Want to know how dry or wet it has been? Hot or cold? Windy? We can help! The Water Resources Data System (WRDS) is a clearinghouse and repository of hydrological and climatological data for the state of Wyoming.
WRDS is funded by the Wyoming Water Development Office (WWDO) and housed within the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering at the University of Wyoming. Through the years, WRDS has developed into the most comprehensive single source of accurate surface and groundwater quantity and quality, snowpack and other climatological data available for Wyoming, fulfilling more than 300 data requests and seeing more than 200,000 website visitors annually.
For over 40 years, WRDS has provided information to numerous federal, state, county and municipal agencies, private engineering firms, public schools, libraries, private citizens and other universities.
Online climate and water data
WRDS hosts several websites with data products and links related to Wyoming climate, hydrography, water quality and drought information at wrds.uwyo.edu.
This website features precipitation data from CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, as well as new climate monitoring maps, graphs and downloadable data compiled by the State Climate Office, which can be reached at wrds.uwyo.edu/sco/climate_office.html.
This information will help water planners and stakeholders gain a sense of climatic variation over time and across the state.
WRDS is also updating related GIS Web Mapping Tools that let users search and view maps and data related to groundwater wells, stream flow, precipitation, public water system data and information on the state’s irrigated lands.
Wyoming Water Library
The Wyoming Water Library housed at WRDS is a comprehensive collection of almost 21,000 documents related to Wyoming’s water resources. Our library is an exceptional resource for individuals desiring more in-depth information on the State’s water resources.
Materials in the collection range from Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC) Level I and II reports to State Engineer’s Office documents, U.S. Geological Survey Reports and University of Wyoming theses.
WRDS actively works to support the WWDO by assisting staff in the development of the State Water Plan, hosting and maintaining the Commissions numerous webpages, for example, the WWDC, State Water Plan, WRDS, Water Library and State Climate Office sites, and serves as the primary library and repository for WWDC reports and related data.
Because Wyoming is the fifth driest state in the U.S. and because precipitation varies so much from place to place over short distances, WRDS is actively working to get better precipitation data in conjunction with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) project.
CoCoRaHS, found at cocorahs.org, is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers working together to measure and map precipitation in all its forms. It uses low-cost measurement tools, stresses training and education and uses an interactive website with the goal of providing the highest quality precipitation data for natural resource, education and research applications.
WRDS provides a free rain gauge to any volunteer who joins Wyoming CoCoRaHS and reports precipitation, or the lack of it. Contact us if you are interested. We would welcome your help!
Water in the form of high-elevation snowpack is a critical resource for all segments of Wyoming’s population and no one more than ranchers and irrigators who rely on late-season snowmelt for much of their water supply.
Because of the importance of snow to our water supply, WRDS has partnered with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide maps and data of how much snow our mountain ranges are receiving. This information is available at wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/nrcs/nrcs.html.
NRCS’s constellation of snow telemetry sites (SnoTel) provide daily data on the water content of snow, also known as the snow water equivalent (SWE). WRDS uses this information to generate daily maps of SWE for 19 river basins to keep the public informed on the progress of our snowpack reservoirs.
Water year 2014 began October 2013 with drought conditions covering 74 percent of the state, but Wyoming was drought-free by the end of March. As water year 2015 begins, we anxiously await the onset the winter snows and hope for a productive snow season!