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Cattle in western Colorado. “My income, my life, requires a reliable water resource,” he said. But since moving to northern Colorado two decades ago, the Colorado River has shrunk by an average of 20% compared to last century. Climatic conditions are one culprit – the area is suffering the worst regional dry spell on record . But there’s another big problem. A recent analysis published in Nature found cattle to be one directory of the major drivers of water shortages. Notably, it is because of water used to grow crops that are fed to cows such as alfalfa and hay. Across the US, cattle-feed crops, which end up as beef and dairy products, account for 23% of all water consumption, according to the report. In the Colorado River Basin, it is over half. “There are many smaller streams that have been dried up completely,” said Brian Richter , the study’s lead author and the president of Sustainable Waters, a water conservation non-profit. “We’re only seeing the beginning of what’s going to become a major natural resource issue for everybody living in the western United States.” Agriculture accounts for 92% of humanity’s freshwater footprint across the planet, and has long been identified as a major culprit in drought. But the new study suggests how extreme its impact can be.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/02/agriculture-cattle-us-water-shortages-colorado-river

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