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.
Dropping Near "Deadpool"
Seven U.S. states in the Colorado River basin are making substantial cuts to water use following 23 years of drought and over-use that threatened a "dead pool" behind Hoover Dam, the point at which water would be too low to pass through to millions of people downriver who depend on it.
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.
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.
First In Line, But Still Waiting
Thirty Native American tribes along the Colorado River were excluded from the century-old agreement that allocates its water. The Navajo Nation and eleven other tribes are still fighting legal battles to access their share of the water.
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