Colorado River Case Study

Water Landforms and People Case Study

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General Facts

South West USA

Source of river in Rocky Mountains. Very powerful/ wild river.

Flow from Rocky Mountains - the Gulf of California

River is 2000km long and flows South West.

20 dams along the river (storage of producing electricity)

Rainfall is seasonal and unpredictable- huge variations in river flow

95% of rainfall is lost

Less than 1% of natural water reaches the delta

25 million people depend on the river

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What is the river used for?

Lifeline for surrounding desert cities

LA, Tuscon, Pheonix, Las Vegas, San Diego

Pheonix used river for electricity to power industries. Without the river Pheonix could not have grown from a small town to a large city in just 40 years.

3000 people each month moved to thriving Pheonix

Pumping stations, dams, reservoirs, underground irrigation channels provided water for the surrounding cities.

Water is unfairly distributed.

Allocation of Water- Nevada- 0.3maf Arizona- 2.8 maf California- 4.4 maf Mexico- 1.5 maf

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Water Engineering and Management

The Building of Dams- to tame the river and to start the process of producing electrcity, Provide flooding management. Excess water stored and gradually released so it does not exceed bankfull capacity. SUCCESSFUL

Allocation of Water- this worked well until states began wanting luxary and the demands became higher.

Irrigation Channels- linked with the allocation of water. Water sent from pumping stations to certain areas.


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Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Hydro- electricity provides 25 million people with electricity without using large amount of fossil fuels.
  • Created a huge amount of jobs for people in the area improving people's standard of living.
  • Huge growth in cities boosting the economy which benefits the state and the USA.


  • Thousands of animals have drowned and habitats lost because of filling Lake Mead.
  • Beaches washed away due to varying flow of the river.
  • Reservoirs reduced in capacity because of huge amounts of trapped sediment.
  • Supplies drying up because of huge demand leading to some cities receiveing salty contaminated water.
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