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The Colorado River is small compared to many rivers in the United States, but as the largest river in the arid Southwest, it is a source of vital water and contentious politics. It is one of the most intensely engineered, regulated, and utilized rivers in the world. Continued population growth in the region and the potential impacts of forecasted climate change make continued political controversy over the river inevitable.

From peaks over 14,000 feet high inside Rocky Mountain National Park, snowmelt and rain collect in the river's headwaters in Lake Granby, Colorado. Joined by large and small tributaries, the river courses 1,450 miles, passing through seven U.S. states (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and two Mexican states (Baja California and Sonora), emptying ...

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