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Unpacking How Climate Change is effecting The Colorado River Basin.

Maayan Rotnes Cohen

One of the Western United States' most treasured natural resources has rapidly diminished. The Colorado River Basin has lost 10 trillion gallons of water over a period of 21 years, according to a recent study. This amount of water is equal to Lake Mead, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River.

Let’s take a look at a by-the-numbers perspective of the impacts of the Colorado River drying.

How large is the Colorado River?

How many people rely on water from the Colorado River?

40 million people rely on drinking water from the river.

How influential is the Colorado River in today's economy?

It supports $1.4 trillion of the economy with jobs, tourism, and infrastructure.

How many native species live within the Colorado River?

There are 55 native fish species alone, with many more plants within the river.

How many animals live around the Colorado River and within the Grand Canyon?

The study was quite extensive in its research and used a land surface model. They concluded that from 1880 to 2021, the temperature in the Colorado River Basin warmed by about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. These warming temperatures have been created by climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

With the water supply dwindling and an overall 10% less flow of water in the Colorado River, the usage of the water supply will have to lessen. The restrictions to preserve the river will lead to higher inflation costs for farmers and eventually Americans everywhere.

This trend of declining water levels in the Colorado River is highly likely to continue if greenhouse gas emissions remain at similar levels, and the effects could be detrimental to the Western U.S. water supply.

The importance of the Colorado River Basin should not be unstated or underestimated. With millions of people relying on the water, trillions of dollars going towards the economy, and hundreds of species relying on the ecosystem, this natural resource is fundamental to The United States.


(2023, August 3). Study: Colorado River Basin lost 40 trillion liters to climate change. WaterWorld. Retrieved August 23, 2023, from

(2023, August 2). Colorado River Basin has lost 10 trillions gallons of water due to climate change: Study. NBC News. Retrieved August 23, 2023, from

Dzombak, R. (2023, July 24). Study: The Colorado River Basin has lost water equal to Lake Mead due to climate change. PHYS.ORG. Retrieved August 23, 2023, from, E. (2023, July 21). Why the Colorado River Was Named America’s Most Endangered River in 2022. AZ Animals. Retrieved August 23, 2023, from


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