Op-Ed: An epic victory in the battle for free-flowing rivers in the American West
The Colorado River is a legendary American treasure. It provides for a massive and growing population, a huge export of food and water, and an important source of revenue for millions of families living in the western U.S. Yet the Colorado River is also one of the world’s most fragile and threatened ecosystems.
The Colorado River isn’t just a river. It’s a lifeline to millions of people and a symbol to us all of our interconnectedness to the Earth. While the Colorado is one of the world’s largest rivers, it drains about 40% of the planet’s freshwater. By the time it leaves the Rockies, it is in the “water-scarce” state and is dependent on snowmobiles, cars, trucks, and airplanes for transporting humans, food and resources.
As the Colorado River has been transformed and shrunk over the last century, it has become more and more of a symbol of our interdependence. As many as a billion people live within a day’s run of the mouth of the Colorado, and they have no say in how the river is managed.
The battle to keep the Colorado Free-flowing is also one of our best chances to fix the Earth’s major problems.
The first significant challenge is how we’ll manage the Colorado if we don’t keep it free flowing, especially in its lower reaches. This problem is a bit easier to fix when the river is still about 125 miles long because the geography is more friendly. But there is nowhere here on the Colorado River where we can easily return it to its natural river state – except, of course, in the past. In the past, rivers such as the Mississippi, Hudson, and Volga had to be shaped by human civilization and a whole series of decisions