Entry Title: "
The Slow Death of the Colorado"
In 1922, a group of powerful men from the western United States divided the ancient, mythic Colorado River eight ways, between seven U.S. states and Mexico. Its red, muddy water would eventually irrigate the radiant Sunbelt civilization stretching from the state of Colorado, where the river is born, to California. With water added, the desert bloomed beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.
But as is often the case, the best-laid plans of men often go awry when they must exist in the real world. Time has shown that more water was promised than actually exists most of the time along the Colorado and the amount taken from it to fulfill the unfulfillable covenant parches the river to death in Mexico’s blazing Sonoran Desert before it can make its age-old rendezvous with the Sea of Cortez. Ninety-five percent of a vast wetland, teeming with life, is now gone, most of it now a bleak baldio. The primeval Salton Sea in southern California is nearly dead, as fertilizer, pesticides and more and more salt drain into it from the Colorado River irrigated farmland that provides the U.S. with seventy-five percent of its winter produce.
As the planet warms and less rain falls on the Colorado River watershed, even as demand for the river continues to increase, the best-laid plans may well be beyond redemption. A report from scientists at the venerable Scripps Institution of Oceanography earlier this year predicts that Lake Mead, created on the Colorado behind Hoover Dam in the 1930’s and the largest manmade lake and reservoir in the U.S., had only a 50-50 chance of surviving past 2021. San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix—all will soon face the same threat of extinction long familiar to the dwindling CucapĂˇ tribe, the Colorado Delta’s original inhabitants, whose name means “the people of the river.”
“No agua, no vida,” the CucapĂˇ say—“No water, no life.”