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

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The shortfall in water deliveries would hold true with or without the general drying effect global warming is expected to have in the region, the duo finds. But the effects would be more pronounced when taking global warming into account.

Unlike past studies on the river, the two have come up with estimates on the magnitude of shortfalls water managers can expect – and when – with or without global warming, and in conjunction with a burgeoning population in the region.

Without global warming in the picture, the scientists estimate that the Bureau of Reclamation would be unable to meet delivery schedules 40 percent of the time by 2050, although the shortfalls would be manageable.

Toss global warming into the mix, however, and the situation worsens.

Other rivers face long-term declines

Nor is the Colorado alone. The Columbia River, China's  Yellow River, India's Ganges, and the Niger in Africa all have seen long-term declines in flow, according to a new analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colo., and the College of William and Mary in Virginia. You can download a PDF of the research paper here. A plain-English description is available here.

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