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March 24, 1985
April 14, 2010

The Colorado River

The changes resulting from excessive rain and drought in the Colorado River Basin are evident as shown in these images from 1985 and 2007.

The Colorado River, which has its headwaters in the snowmelt of the Rocky Mountains, is 1,400 miles (2,253 km) long and empties into the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). The river provides water for drinking, irrigation, electricity, industry, and recreation for seven U.S. and two Mexico states, serving more than 25 million people. Since the first water flow measurements began in the late 1800s, these two Landsat 5 images show the extremes of the record; 1985 was in the midst of record high flow, and 2007 followed the driest period on the Colorado River. Excessive rains or severe droughts directly change the available water in the Colorado River Basin, but so, too, does the increasing pressure of human needs throughout the western states.

Landsat 5 25th Anniversary Imagery Collection: 30 by 30 meters (98 feet by 98 feet) spatial resolution. Researchers can identify objects slightly larger than the size of a baseball diamond. Path 38, Row 38: March 24, 1985 and April 6, 2007.
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March 24, 1985
April 14, 2010