ENVIRONMENT
1:46 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Drought-Stricken Colorado River Basin Drying Up Quicker Than Thought

North Fork of the Gunnison River, Colorado River
The North Fork of the Gunnison River feeds into the Gunnison River, a tributary of the Colorado River, which supplies drinking water to millions of people in the West.

The drought-stricken Colorado River Basin is drying up faster than was thought, according to a recent study. 

NASA and the University of California, Irvine used satellite data gathered over a nine year period to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin that has been experiencing severe drought since 2000.    

The scientists looked at monthly measurements between December 2004 and November 2013. They found the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater, that's nearly double the volume of Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir, during that period. The study said about 41 million acre feet of that lost water was groundwater.  

The basin provides water to millions of people in seven Western states: Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. It also supplies water to roughly four million acres of farmland. 

KVNF’s Laura Palmisano spoke to the study’s principal investigator and senior author Jay Famiglietti.  He’s a senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at the University of California, Irvine. 

In the interview, Femiglietti said the takeaway from the study is that the water security of the West is at greater risk than previously thought. 

 

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