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Cooperation Along the Colorado River

by Brian Clark Howard

“Climate is always changing, but from here on out it is definitely changing,” Jonathan Overpeck told the packed room at theAspen Environment Forum in Colorado this past weekend.

Overpeck is the director of the Institute for the Environment at the University of Arizona, and an expert on water in the West.

Aspen leaves could be seen quaking in the mountain breezes through the narrow clerestory windows at the Aspen Institute, asNational Geographic writer Michelle Nijhuis moderated a panel called “Prospects for Water in the West.”

Overpeck pointed out that the Colorado River Basin is home to nearly 40 million people in the U.S. and Mexico, including some of the region’s largest cities. It is also the fastest growing part of the country, with some states having doubled their populations over the past few decades.

Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta, the director of the water and wetlands program with Pronatura Noroestein northern Mexico, said the Colorado River is already over-allocated by 16%. Hinojosa-Huerta was recently named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

Overpeck added that this situation is likely to worsen as the region gets hotter and drier, as predicted by the leading climate models.

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