The Colorado River starts high in the Rocky Mountain's the river runs 1,500 miles south through canyons, waterfalls ending up in lush wetlands of the delta of Mexico and the Gulf of California. The river has been running this way for 6 million years.
That is until man decided to divvy up the Colorado River to the Western states. They started building dams and diverting the water hundreds of miles, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and other growing cities. The river now provides water to about 30 million people in seven states and even Mexico. Most of the water is taken to provide irrigation to the 3.5 million acres of cropland.
Some people believe it was a great engineering feat to build the dams and divert the rivers massive water flow to America's seventh longest river, many feel that it is simply a crime against the environment and wrong. The Southwest has been in a drought situation for the last decade causing the river to run very low. The river still spills through the Grand Canyon, as tourist's look on and rafters continue to raft the beautiful river and her rapids, not even realizing that the river is in danger. And boaters still boat across Nevada and Arizona's Lake Mead which is 110 miles long and formed by the Hoover Dam.
But at the lake's edge you can see lines in the rock walls 130 feet lower than usual. The low water has been going on for 16 years and will possibly never reach its former depth again unless we stop the drainage of the river, and stop climate change. Scientist are saying climate change will likely decrease the river's flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years. Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with and droughts will last longer. Higher air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation. Because of the warmer climate snow will be less and the melt will begin earlier causing lower water levels later in the year affecting the growing season for crops that depend on irrigation.
The loss of fresh water is not only a problem for the Colorado River but is a massive problem world-wide. For example the Mediterranean, southern Africa and parts of South America and Asia all face fresh-water shortages; actually they are in a crisis. In the Andes Mountains of South America, glaciers are melting so quickly that millions of people in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador are projected to lose their major source of fresh water by 2020. In southwestern Australia is in the midst of its worst drought in 750 years, the situation is so dire the city of Perth is building plants to remove the salt from seawater. More than one billion people around the world live in water-stressed regions. This number is expected to double by 2050, when an estimated nine billion people will inhabit the earth.
There is not enough water to supply the projected population numbers because of climate change and consumption. People need to rethink the way they use water because it will not always be there. At one time the Colorado River use to flow into the sea, not now it does not even come close to the sea.
For example; 1922 conservationist Aldo Leopold paddled a canoe through the great delta at the mouth of the Colorado River. He wrote about a "wealth of fowl and fish" and "still waters...of a deep emerald hue." In Leopold's time, the delta stretched over nearly 3,000 square miles; now it covers fewer than 250 miles and the only water flowing through it, except after heavy rains, is the runoff from alfalfa, lettuce and melon fields and pecan orchards. These crops are sucking what life is left in the river.
Invasive plants, such as salt cedar and cattails, now control the delta, there are now endless mud flats where forests used to stand. And in the Gulf of California species dependent on freshwater such as shellfish, shrimp and waterfowl have declined dramatically because the fresh water has dried up.
We can put a huge dent in the problem or even stop the drainage of the Colorado. We can start putting more restrictions on usage, such as turning green watered lawns into drought tolerant landscapes make it mandatory no more plush green lawns for anyone. Make it mandatory to have all water saving appliances, showers, etc. no more useless washing of cars, golfers must learn to golf on dried out greens no more wasting water on golf courses. Stop planting crops that demand huge amounts of water such as almonds, avocadoes. We must change our entire way of life.
Water shortages are all of our problems but since California uses the most water they should be diligent in solving the problem of water shortages. Enough water flows into the ocean from Southern California's streets and sewers to meet all of the area's water needs. I say develop the means to recycle this run-off its time to change the way we think and live. Some of these changes are already occurring over the last decade due to investments in new technology in waste water treatment.
The Colorado River has 5 trillion gallons of water flowing through her and every drop is taken out, its time for people to start putting water back in the river. Right now California and Mexico are working on this issue to restore the depleted delta eco system.
People may think that conserving water and rethinking the way we use water is an impossible task and a hardship, but to go on the way we are will only worsen the task set before us. It wont take long to adapt to a change in the way we view water usage and before long the new us wont even consider the changes a problem it will just be the norm. Do we really need green lawns or clean cars or certain foods I don't think so. I would rather have water to drink and abundant wildlife than green lawns and a clean car and we can do without almonds, avocadoes even though I love both and so can you.
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