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Too many 'straws' sucking water out of the Colorado River

Bureau of Reclamation/Alexander Stephens

(Read caption) Lights illumine Hoover Dam and a new bypass bridge under construction.

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Tim Barnett is no stranger to water woes in the western US, particularly for states that draw on the Colorado River. He's called its waters "the life’s blood of today’s modern Southwest society and economy" – an artery that serves roughly 27 million people in the US and Mexico and moistens 3 million acres of farmland.

Without significantly cuts to demand from the river,  the US Bureau of Reclamation will be unable to deliver the amounts of water that states in the Lower Colorado River Basin have been allocated, according to a new study he and colleague David Pierce published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Both are scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. You can find a plain-English description of their study here.


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