Severe Drought Reduces Water Supplies in the Southwest
Since 2000, drought that was intensified by long-term trends of higher temperatures due to climate change has reduced the flow in the Colorado River (top left), which in turn has reduced the combined contents of Lakes Powell and Mead to the lowest level since both lakes were first filled (top right). In the Upper Colorado River Basin that feeds the reservoirs, temperatures have increased (bottom left), which increases plant water use and evaporation, reducing lake inflows and contents. Although annual precipitation (bottom right) has been variable without a long-term trend, there has been a recent decline in precipitation that exacerbates the drought. Combined with increased Lower Basin water consumption that began in the 1990s, these trends explain the recently reduced reservoir contents. Straight lines indicate trends for temperature, precipitation, and river flow. The trends for temperature and river flow are statistically significant. Sources: Colorado State University and CICS-NC. Temperature and precipitation data from: PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, accessed 20 June 2018.