The Colorado River is drying up, and a new study finds that climate change is responsible for half of the 16 percent decrease in flow between 2000 and 2017.
As warming continues, the study, published in the journal Science, finds that the river may lose up to one-fourth of its flow in the next 30 years due to precipitation and snowpack decline and evaporation increases.
The river is a crucial water source for the West, providing water for 5 million acres of farmland and 40 million people across 7 states, and the decrease in flow in recent years, caused partially by overuse, has forced Western states to reconsider and restructure water policy.
“There’s not a drop of that water that no one has a claim on,” coauthor Christopher Milly told the Arizona Daily Star. “If and when that supply is reduced by 10 to 20 to 30%, someone is going to have to stop using as much water.”