Colorado River Could Lose 35% of Flow by End of Century, Study Suggests

Mar 22, 2017

The Colorado River basin
Credit Public Domain

A recent study suggests the Colorado River could see a 35% flow reduction by the end of the 21st century due to the effects of climate change.

The study looked at drought conditions from 2000 to 2014 and found there's already been a 20% drop in the river's flow. Researchers determined a third of that reduction was due to high temperatures rather than decreased precipitation.

Lead author on the study Brad Udall is a Climate Research Scientist at Colorado State University. He says the amount of water loss surprised him.

"In the back of my mind I knew this was possible, but to tie it all together with the practical reality of what we've seen in recent years is eye opening," he said. 

Udall says water managers should take the study's findings into account when planning for a future with less flow. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Water Resources Research.