The Wind River Indian Reservation in west-central Wyoming is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, who reside near and depend on water from the streams that feed into the Wind River. In recent years, however, the region has experienced frequent severe droughts, which have impacted tribal livelihoods and cultural activities.
Scientists with the North Central Climate Science Center at Colorado State University, the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and several other university and agency partners are working closely with tribal water managers to assess how drought affects the reservation, integrating social, ecological, and hydro-climatological sciences with local knowledge. The findings were intended to help inform the creation of a climate monitoring system and drought management plan, which are being supported with additional technical and financial support from the High Plains Regional Climate Center and NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System. The drought plan integrated climate science with hydrologic, social, and ecological vulnerabilities and risks, and identify response capacities and strategies to support the Tribal Water Code and related resources management. Ultimately, the plan was designed to help the tribes ensure that agricultural and other societal needs are met during times of drought.
As part of the project, tribal water managers and the public were engaged in educational activities related to water resources and drought preparedness through joint activities with Wyoming Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research to build the tribes’ ability to respond to future drought. Additionally, the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado-Boulder and the project team evaluated team processes and outputs to document “lessons learned” from the collaborative process to support the transfer of knowledge to other tribes and non-tribal entities in the region and beyond.
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“Wind River - Credit: Shannon McNeeley”