LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AP) -- The drought gripping the West could be the biggest in 500 years, with effects in the Colorado River basin considerably worse than during the Dust Bowl years, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey said Thursday.
"That we can now say with confidence," said Robert Webb, lead author of the new fact sheet. "Now I'm completely convinced."
The Colorado River has been in a drought for the entire decade, cutting an important source of water for millions of people across the West, including Southern California.
Environmental groups said the report reinforces the need to figure out a better way to manage the Colorado River before reservoirs run dry.
"The water managers, they just continue to pray for rain," said Owen Lammers, director of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper. "They just say, well, we hope that things change and we see rain."
The report said the drought has produced the lowest flow in the Colorado River on record, with an adjusted annual average flow of only 5.4 million acre-feet at Lees Ferry, Ariz., during the period 2001-2003. By comparison, during the Dust Bowl years, between 1930 and 1937, the annual flow averaged about 10.2 million acre-feet, the report said.
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