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Accounting System for Water Use by Vegetation in the Lower Colorado River Valley

January 1, 1994

The Colorado River is the principal source of water in the valley of the Colorado River between Hoover Dam and the international boundary with Mexico (fig. 1). Agricultural, domestic, municipal, industrial, hydroelectric-power genera-tion, and recreation are the primary uses of river water in the valley. Most of the consumptive use of water from the river occurs downstream from Davis Dam, where water is diverted to irrigate crops along the river or is exported to interior regions of California and Arizona.

Most of the agricultural areas are on the alluvium of the flood plain; in a few areas, land on the alluvial terraces has been cultivated. River water is consumed mainly by vegetation (crops and phreatophytes) on the flood plain. Crops were grown on 70.3 percent of the vegetated area classified by using 1984 digital image satellite data. Phreatophytes, natural vege-tation that obtain water from the alluvial aquifer, covered the remaining vegetated areas on the uncultivated flood plain. Most of the water used for irrigation is diverted or pumped from the river. In some areas, water is pumped from wells completed in the alluvial aquifer, which is hydraulically connected to the river.