Even just a subtle shift in climate could lead to chronic water shortages especially in Arizona, which the study notes suffers the most if the Colorado can't meet the full demands of all seven states it serves.
The researchers argue it's not a question of if, or even when, climate changes will begin to affect water supplies, but how seriously those supplies will be affected, the Arizona Republic reported Thursday.
Scientists noted that just a decade of higher temperatures and shrinking runoff seasons have resulted in a drought that's crippled Colorado's reservoirs.
"This climate disruption is already under way," said Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization that produced the study. He said climate change "will lead to more heat, less snow, less water when we need it, and possibly more drought."
The study urges increased state and federal efforts to reduce so-called greenhouse gases that are believed to have accelerated global warming trends.