Colorado River is in danger due to abnormally low rainfall, high temperatures, dry conditions that have significantly reduced the flow: the climate crisis, in short. A recent study, conducted by the US Geological Survey, reveals that the natural flow of the Colorado River has decreased by 20%.
Researchers argue that more than half of the decline in flow is linked to rising temperatures. And, they say, as warming increases, the risk of severe water shortages for the millions who rely on it is expected to worsen dramatically.
Exoperts said snow as an essential element in the warmth and reflectivity of snow. And most importantly, a key element to the river's sensitivity, known as the albedo. The team then focused on the role of snow cover as a protective shield for water.
In their models, the experts found that the loss of winter snow led to warmer temperatures with more evaporation. Snow reflects light, so its reduction indicates that river basins absorb more heat energy. Sunlight, on the other hand, causes faster evaporation from the snowpack.
The greater the evaporation that comes from the basin means a decrease in the water in the river. Researchers also predict that the average natural flow will decrease by 9% for each aument of 1.8 degrees of temperature. Loss of water supply looms for some 40 million people and 5 million acres of farmland that depend on the river.
Colorado River towards the total loss of water
By 2050, they foresee two possible dark scenarios: the water flowing in the river reduced by 14-26%. Or, even worse, reduced by 19-31%. They also claim that even if rainfall increases, it will probably not be enough to compensate for the increase in evaporation.
Predicting more severe water shortages, this study offers a dire warning of the consequences of climate change. Lack of water is increasingly evident and the Colorado River is decreasing at a rate of approximately 9.3%. With the increase in temperature it could lose about a quarter of its natural flow by 2050.
From its high source in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River channels water south for approximately 2,330 km, through waterfalls, deserts and canyons. To the lush wetlands of a vast delta in Mexico and the Gulf of California.
Its flow rate varies from 113 m³ / s during drought to 28,000 m³ / s during periods of maximum flood. The river currently serves 40 million people in nine states, between the United States and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water stolen to irrigate millions of acres of farmland.
Since the seventies, the increase in temperature has contributed to a more rapid melting of snow. This has led to the warming of many areas contiguous to the Colorado catchment area. As a result, the volume of water in the catchment area has decreased. The years from 2000 to 2004 were the only 5 consecutive years in history with a water flow below average.