By Michael Thomsen For Dailymail.com
Published: 19:43 GMT, 3 March 2020 | Updated: 20:13 GMT, 3 March 2020
Cattle farmers in the American West are depleting freshwater stores from the Colorado River, according to a new study from scientists at the University of Delaware.
The study found the main cause was irrigation to grow crops used for cattle feed—including water-hungry alfalfa and corn.
According to the study, led by the University of Delaware's Kyle Davis, 55 percent of all water taken from the Colorado River basin goes to growing food for cows, something that’s contributed to the gradual depletion of the river.
A new study on water usage in the Colorado River basin has identified 53 fish species at elevated risk of extinction because of water diverted to farms growing feed crops for cattle
The river's water flow has decreased by 20 percent over the last 100 years, as agriculture has combined with local temperature increases to deplete the region's freshwater stores faster than they can be replenished through natural means.
That decline has put 53 species of fish local to the Colorado River at elevated risk of extinction, according to Davis and his team.
‘We looked at agriculture, industry, domestic use, and thermoelectric power generation and quantified what their water demand is on a monthly basis,’ Davis told the University of Delaware's news blog UDaily.
‘Then we incorporated those estimates into a national hydrological model to understand how those human water uses within different watersheds in the United States would lead to reduced availability for people and aquatic species downstream.’
Davis and his team identified almost 1,000 specific locations where water flow depletion placed fish at risk, and 690 of those specific locations were attributed to irrigation for cattle feed crops.
Corn farms in Colorado are one of the main sources of feed to for cattle, which has helped decrease water flow in the Colorado River by 20 percent over the last 100 years
The cattle industry in and around the Colorado River basin feeds people all across the United States, with large business shipping beef to Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Denver and