Researchers from Colorado State University and University of Arizona are predicting the Colorado River will suffer up to a 55 percent reduction in volume by the end of this century, due to global warming. That will be concern to the 41 million people in seven states of the American Southwest that use the river's supply for drinking water, and affect the water supply for six million acres of farmland.
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The scientists began investigating after noticing that recent Colorado flows were lower than water managers expected, given the amount of precipitation. The projected loss is equal to the amount of fresh water used by 2 million people a year.
Researchers looked at the drought years of 2000-2014, and found that 85 percent of the river's flow originates as precipitation in the Upper Basin, the part of the river that drains portions of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. The team found during 2000-2014, temperatures in the river's Upper Basic were 1.6 degrees F (0.9 C) higher than the average for previous 105 years.