Wednesday July 26, 2023

The Hill

Scientists are holding human-induced climate change responsible for the Colorado River Basin’s loss of more than 10 trillion gallons of water — or about the entire storage capacity of Lake Mead — over the past two decades.

Without the impacts of anthropogenic warming, drought conditions would not likely have depleted reservoir levels low enough to require a first-ever federally declared water shortage, which the U.S. government instituted in 2021, the scientists determined in a new study.

The findings come at a watershed moment for the Colorado River region, where stakeholders from the federal government, the seven basin states, tribal nations and Mexico are about to renegotiate the long-term guidelines that govern the basin.

“The fact that warming removed as much water from the basin as the size of Lake Mead itself during the recent megadrought is a wakeup call to the climate change impacts we are living today,” lead author Benjamin Bass, a hydrologic modeler at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement.

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