<p>March 22 is World Water Day, a time to reflect on the state of the world’s freshwater. The Colorado River is one of the most fully used—and heavily contested—waterways on Earth. It provides water for 30 million people and has many dams and diversions along its 1,450-mile (2,333-kilometer) path.</p> <p>In its natural state, the river flowed all the way from the high plains of the Western U.S. to the Gulf of California in Mexico. But because it is so heavily tapped along the way for agriculture, industry, and municipal uses, it rarely reaches the ocean anymore. For a few short weeks in 2014, the U.S. and Mexico cooperated, allowing the waters to reach the ocean. An effort is underway to restore the flow permanently, but is unlikely to be implemented soon.</p> <p>Related: <a href="http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/colorado-river-zoomifier/">Explore the Colorado River (map)</a></p>

Colorado River

March 22 is World Water Day, a time to reflect on the state of the world’s freshwater. The Colorado River is one of the most fully used—and heavily contested—waterways on Earth. It provides water for 30 million people and has many dams and diversions along its 1,450-mile (2,333-kilometer) path.

In its natural state, the river flowed all the way from the high plains of the Western U.S. to the Gulf of California in Mexico. But because it is so heavily tapped along the way for agriculture, industry, and municipal uses, it rarely reaches the ocean anymore. For a few short weeks in 2014, the U.S. and Mexico cooperated, allowing the waters to reach the ocean. An effort is underway to restore the flow permanently, but is unlikely to be implemented soon.

Related: Explore the Colorado River (map)

Photograph by Peter McBride, Nat Geo Image Collection

8 mighty rivers run dry from overuse

From the American West to China, Australia to India, some of the world's most important rivers have been drained dry for agriculture, industry, and drinking water.

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