Writer: Use of river needs to change

Not even a trickle of the once-mighty Colorado remains at the dry and dusty end of the river’s run at the Gulf of California.

That needs to change, Carbondale author Jonathan Waterman told about 150 people packed into the Saccomanno Lecture Hall at Mesa State College on Monday.

Waterman traveled from the headwaters of the river in the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park to the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. His book, “Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea Down the Colorado River,” reflects the experience of running the rapids of Gore and Cataract canyons as the river makes its steep descent, to the flatwaters of lakes Powell and Mead and beyond.

“The river provides a huge economic engine from stem to stern, to Mexico and beyond,” Waterman said.

Below Lake Havasu, the Colorado is reduced to an “irrigation ditch” and parceled out for crop irrigation and domestic uses. What’s left seeps into the dust.

Such an end is inglorious at best, a travesty to the economy and environment of the American Southwest and northern Mexico, Waterman said.

Each of the seven Western states of the United States that feeds and depends on the Colorado River, as well as Mexico, can find a way to make sure the Colorado runs to the sea, Waterman said.

An environmentalist and conservationist, Waterman said he gained a new respect for the dams that hold back the river, protecting downstream communities from floods and providing domestic and agricultural water to faraway farmlands.

Hoover Dam, he said, “allowed us to build a civilization in the Southwest.”

That came at the cost of a fragmented river that is showing stress even in the river’s most impressive stretch, he said.

“The very carotid artery of the Grand Canyon, i.e., the river, is in great trouble,” he said. “We have to find a new model for water use.”


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