River at Risk

Searching for Solutions on the Declining Colorado River

The Colorado River is the primary water source for 40 million people in the largest cities and agricultural lands in the American Southwest. Stretching from Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to Mexico’s Gulf of California, the river system is now threatened by two decades of drought and overuse. In this five-part series, VOA looks at how cities, farmers, tribes, and other communities along the Colorado are adapting to a hotter, drier future with less water.

Colorado River

Episode Two:
Water Cops and Microbes

Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and nearly every other city in the American Southwest depend on the dwindling Colorado River. One desert city has become an unlikely model for water conservation: Las Vegas. Over the past two decades, Las Vegas – which hosts over 35 million visitors per year and continues to grow ­– has kept its annual water use at around the same, relatively low, level by recycling wastewater and regulating use.

Las Vegas

Episode Three:
Food Engine in the Desert

One desert valley in California uses more Colorado River water than the states of Arizona and Nevada combined. U.S. consumers depend on the Imperial Valley for a large percent of their winter vegetables and other crops. New water cuts are looming, and one crop has become a target for controversy.

Imperial Valley

Page, Arizona

Episode Five:
Just Add Water

The Colorado River once supported a thriving delta ecosystem in Mexico. Now the river ends shortly after crossing the border, where the last of its water is used for agriculture. A unique Mexican/American agreement is helping environmentalists revive a fragile habitat in the desert at the river's end.

San Luis Rio Colorado


Reporter, Photographer and Video Editor
Matt Dibble
Animation and Graphics
Matthew Houston
Web Design/Development
Stephen Mekosh, Dino Beslagic
Special Thanks
Scott Stearns, Mia Bush and the interview contributors who took time to share their stories with us