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Peter McBride and Jonathan Waterman Trace Water Through The Colorado River

March 12, 2011

I keep telling everyone that will listen that fresh water is the next “oil” of natural resources. It is a natural resource that is being depleted rapidly, while its value (for irrigation, drinking, generating power, etc.) increases dramatically. There have already been many conflicts over fresh water, including violence and legal battles over water rights. The Smithsonian reports “More than one billion people around the world now live in water-stressed regions, according to the World Health Organization, a number that is expected to double by 2050, when an estimated nine billion people will inhabit the planet.”

One of the places in the United States that you can truly see the sobering effects of our use of fresh water is the Colorado river. Photographer Pete McBride (check out his website) has taken some extraordinary photos that tell the story of a mighty river that no longer reaches the sea:


The Colorado River basin.

Lake Powell in Utah has a white ring that rises over 70 feet above current water levels. The ring is mineral deposits from where the water level used to be.

A dry river channel 25 miles from where the Colorado historically emptied into the Gulf of California.


The Cocopah Indian tribe’s traditional fishing grounds.

Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. Lake Mead has dropped 130 feet in the past ten years.

The river provides water to irrigate crops (pistachio trees in Arizona seen in this photo); 70% of the river is drawn off to irrigate 3.5 million acres of cropland.

Phoenix, Arizona. Cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix are expanding and requiring more and more water.

Jon Waterman where the river ends, 40 miles from the Sea of Cortez.

50 miles south of the US Mexican border the river delta, once a rich estuary for wildlife, is now essentially a desert.

Check out more photographs and the story of Pete McBride and Jon Waterman in their book The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ian permalink
    March 31, 2011 8:57 pm

    Very Cool research.


  1. What Were You Doing WhenThey Killed the Oceans?

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