The Colorado River won’t be able to support the growing population of California and other Western states, according to a federal study released Wednesday.
The study—conducted by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation over the course of three years—says the river will fall short of demand by an estimated 3.2 million acre-feet by 2060.
The shortfall is enough to support roughly 3 million households.
The study—which examined how Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming would be affected—projects that 76.5 million people will rely on the Colorado River Basin by 2060.
Currently, 40 million people benefit from the river.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said officials need to plan and collaborate to prepare.
“There’s no silver bullet to solve the imbalance between the demand for water and the supply in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years—rather, it’s going to take diligent planning and collaboration from all stakeholders to identify and move forward with practical solutions,” he said in a statement.
“Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and this study provides a solid platform to explore actions we can take toward a sustainable water future. While not all of the proposals included in the study are feasible, they underscore the broad interest in finding a comprehensive set of solutions.”
The study includes more than 150 proposals to solve the supply and demand imbalances. Ideas include increasing water supply through reuse or desalinization, and reducing demand through increased conservation.
The Colorado River Basin is described as one of the “most critical” sources of water in the Western United States.
The river supplies water to irrigate nearly 4 million acres, and is also the lifeblood for at least 22 Native American tribes, seven national wildlife refuges, four national recreation areas and 11 national parks, according to the study.
The full report is available at Usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy.html