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Colorado River Water Shortage for Western States Foreseen in U.S. Study

The three-year study was conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation and released Wednesday.

The Colorado River won’t be able to support the growing population of Western states including California, says a federal study released Wednesday.

The study, conducted by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation over the course of three years, says the river will be an estimated 3.2 million acre-feet short of meeting demand by 2060.

The shortage amount would support roughly 3 million households.

The study—which examines how Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming will be affected—projects that 76.5 million people will rely on the Colorado River Basin by 2060.

Currently, 40 million people benefit from the river.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said stakeholders will need to plan and collaborate to prepare for the change.

“There’s no silver bullet to solve the imbalance between the demand for water and the supply in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years—rather, it’s going to take diligent planning and collaboration from all stakeholders to identify and move forward with practical solutions,” he said in a statement.

“Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and this study provides a solid platform to explore actions we can take toward a sustainable water future. While not all of the proposals included in the study are feasible, they underscore the broad interest in finding a comprehensive set of solutions.”

The study—authorized by Congress and jointly funded by the seven basin states—includes more than 150 proposals to solve the supply and demand imbalances. Proposals include increasing water supply through reuse or desalinization methods, and reducing demand through increased conservation and efficiency efforts.

The Colorado River Basin is described as one of the “most critical” sources of water in the western United States.

The river supplies water to irrigate nearly 4 million acres of land, and is also the lifeblood for at least 22 Native American tribes, seven national wildlife refuges, four national recreation areas and 11 national parks, according to the study.

Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Monrovia's newly elected Congressional representative for the 32nd District, released a statement on the study:

“It is clear that we face many challenges ahead when it comes to meeting our future water demands. This study starts the conversation for how we can solve these challenges. We must work together to develop a water path forward, a path that must include water recycling and efficiencies as a solution.”

The full report is available at Usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy.html.

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