Rising temperatures sucking water out of the Colorado River

Photo: The All American Canal, which carries Colorado River into the Imperial Valley in Southern California. California uses more Colorado River water than any other state. BRENT STIRTON/GETTY IMAGES

Rising temperatures are undermining the source of one third of Southern California’s drinking water: the Colorado River. A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey finds the river’s flow has shrunk by about seven percent over the past 30 years.

As air temperature rises due to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, more water is sucked into the atmosphere from the snowpack and the river itself instead of flowing downstream. The amount that has evaporated is equal to approximately 24 percent of the total amount of California’s annual Colorado River allocation.

“These are pretty significant amounts that are being lost as temperatures have gone up,” said lead author Gregory McCabe, a climate scientist with USGS in Denver. That is sobering news for Southern California, where Colorado River supplies were a lifeline during the recent five-year drought. During the driest year, 2014, the region’s other main source of water, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, was nearly non-existent. The series of aqueducts and canals that carry water from Northern to Southern California delivered just five percent of its normal amount that year. The region relied heavily on Colorado River water to make up the gap. “What I’m saying to folks in Southern California […]

More about the Colorado River water and the state of Colorado:

PARCHED: Climate change and growth are pushing Colorado toward a water crisis

Plan for Colorado River draws on Blue Mesa, Flaming Gorge reservoirs

The Colorado River is evaporating, climate change largely to blame

Water a focus for growing northern Colorado communities

To Save Their Water Supply, Colorado Farmers Taxed Themselves

Water under Colorado’s Eastern Plains running dry as farmers keep irrigating “great American desert”

U.S.A. and Mexico agree to share a shrinking Colorado River

Colorado River v. State of Colorado

SCOTUS: Upstream States to Reduce River Usage, Aid Downstream States in Drought

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Rising temperatures sucking water out of the Colorado River
Rising temperatures are undermining one third of Southern California drinking water: the Colorado River. USGS finds the flow has shrunk 7% in just 30 years.
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