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Drought in the Colorado Basin

U.S. Department of the Interior

This series of visualizations is part of a rich multi-agency effort to showcase the usefulness of open data (i.e., data provided in a discoverable, sharable, and machine-readable format) by exploring the 16-year drought as of 2016 and its effects on the Colorado River Basin.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Simulation/Interactive supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 2 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Effects of climate change on water cycle and freshwater availability
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7b
Increased extreme weather events due to climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7c

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Adding a set of assessment questions/prompts for each sections could turn this resource into an inquiry-based experience for students.

About the Science

  • Visualizations document (via text, maps, graphs, satellite images) the role that the Colorado River plays in water supply and hydropower to the Southwestern US and Northwestern Mexico. Current drought (since 2000) has and will continue to have a major impact in these areas.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - Describes the Colorado River in many different ways: lifeline, geographic location, control structures, storage capacity and water supply
    - Explains characteristics/statistics of the current drought, more development leads to higher demand, impacts on Lake Mead and Lake Powell, and what is being done to mitigate the drought

About the Pedagogy

  • Visualization is a self-directed, click-through primer on the importance of the Colorado River to the extensive area that it touches.
  • Through text divided into 11 subheadings, and a series of 13 interactive illustrations, graphs, and figures, the story of the drought in the Colorado River basin is told in an engaging and logically organized way.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Outstanding graphics and interactive graphs.
  • The "Explore" interactives can be inserted into other presentations since they have unique urls.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Simulation/Interactive supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-ESS3.A1:Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

MS-P4.1:Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

MS-P4.4:Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P8.1:Critically read scientific texts adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas and/or obtain scientific and/or technical information to describe patterns in and/or evidence about the natural and designed world(s).

High School

Science and Engineering Practices: 2

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P8.1:Critically read scientific literature adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas or conclusions and/or to obtain scientific and/or technical information to summarize complex evidence, concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

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