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What If? Study Shows Devastating Impact Of Losing The Colorado River

A new study says the economies of Nevada and six other states that rely on Colorado River water would be devastated if it ran dry for a full year.

The study by Arizona State University was commissioned by Protect the Flows, a business coalition that advocates on behalf of the river.

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Researchers looked at the impact the loss of the river would have on gross state product, employment and labor income for all seven states that rely on the Colorado River.

According to the research, the river generates $1.4 trillion in economic benefits every year and $871 billion in annual labor income.

If the Colorado River ever ran dry, an estimated 64.4 percent of the combined value of each state’s output of goods and services would be impacted.

According to the study, Nevada would suffer the biggest drop in state productivity, an estimated 87 percent loss in gross state product. Currently, the state gets 79 percent of its water from the river, compared with Arizona which gets 41 percent.

Nevada would stand to lose more than $70 billion, if the river ran dry for a year.

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The Deseret News reports Utah gets an estimated 22 percent of its agricultural water and 34 percent of its municipal and industrial water supplies from the Colorado River.

Deseret News reported:

Utah's impacts are far overshadowed by states such as Arizona and California — with river-dependent gross state products of $185 billion and $657 billion respectively — but the impacts are nevertheless telling.

All together more than 16 million public and private sector jobs in the Colorado River Basin Region relies on water flowing through the river each year. The river serves an estimated 40 million people. 

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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Natalie is an Emmy-award winning journalist who has worked in the Las Vegas market since August 1996, starting as a newscast producer for KLAS-TV Channel 8, and later as an online editor for