22 Sep 2011: e360 Video

Colorado River: Running Near Empty

Photographer Pete McBride traveled along the Colorado River from its source high in the Rockies to its historic mouth at the Sea of Cortez. In a Yale Environment 360 video, he documents how increasing water demands have transformed the river that is the lifeblood for an arid Southwest.

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COMMENTS Impressive! I've "wondered" about a lot of things during my life, but never follow through...I guess I should have. I'm glad that Pete decided to. It's an even bigger story than what he portraits here. But this is an excellent start to that story! Thank you for taking the time to "wonder" and for seeking the answers!

Posted by L. Elizabeth Ulrop on 22 Sep 2011

My hat is off to Pete McBride for creating such a powerful piece. I think about the water wars in my own state and about how we use up that which seems inexhaustable. I would like to see a part II of the film, to talk about short and long term solutions, costs and choices, because that was not part of this film. I would like to see it on public access TV, because the Colorado is part of our national identity, and the first step is to raise awareness. When I can help fund it, you bet I will.

Posted by Stacy L. on 22 Sep 2011

Thanks, Pete McBride for the superb video. Quite sad, though. And there seems to be no solution in the foreseeable future: Homo sapiens' needs take first place in the race (to where?).

Posted by Robin Datta on 23 Sep 2011

My tears wet my shirt, my heart, my soul.

Posted by Hari Venugopalan on 24 Sep 2011

Outstanding! Is a longer version of this film being made? I was curious about the boat journey, and the obstacles encountered (pollution, dried areas, wildlife, dames, etc.). Is global warming and diversion of water the main reasons the river no longer flows to the sea?

Posted by Lena Hakim on 28 Sep 2011

Sad. I grew up in a house built along the banks of the Colorado half way along its journey through Arizona. There were always debates about who should get to use the water, but it was only about Arizona versus California, never Mexico or the delta ecosystem.

Posted by Martin Fisher-Haydis on 01 Oct 2011

This would be a marvelous film to add Portuguese (and otherlanguages) subtitles. Please contact me to help resolve this need. Brazil is currently building huge irrigation projects that model what happened to the Colorado River. They need to have a different perspective presented. Sincerely, Matthew

Posted by Matthew Berigan on 29 Dec 2011

Unfortunately water shortages aren't just happening here, it is happening in lots of places across the world. You can blame it on global warming, the population increasing or whatever but it's only going to get worse unless we understand that water isn't an unlimited resource that most of us take for granted but actually very valuable, way more valuable than most of us realize.

Posted by Kelly on 22 Jan 2012

I am afraid that this study, along with others that predict future flow reductions in the Colorado River Basin, suggests that water managers should begin to re-think current water management practices during the next few years before the more serious effects of climate change appear.

Posted by Tanim on 22 Jan 2012

Awesome video really helped me to understand the Colorado water scarcity for my exam tomorrow! Really powerful video, good job dude!

Posted by Nic on 29 Jan 2012

I cried, I screamed. In the end I wrote a blog http://bit.ly/waa892 What will it take for us to wake up? My God! Thank you....

Posted by Kathryn Alexander on 09 Feb 2012

How about a little 'journalism 101' -- like dating your articles? It wasn't until I clicked open the comments that I realized that this video was posted way back last September! It may still be valid, but that's no excuse. There's already too much "journalism" on the internet that's useless because it's undated. Shouldn't Yale be at the forefront of maintaining journalistic standards?

Posted by Daniel Drasin on 14 Feb 2012

I have recently been blogging about how it is necessary to take travelers to third world countries so they can see what damage poor water conservation and bad agriculture practices can do to land. After watching this video I realize there is no need to visit third world countries in order to see horrific damage.

Susan Leal, the former general manager of San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission, says that it is not that we are running out of water, but we are running low on useable water especially since our population is growing so quickly. There is a great question and answer session with her at: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/smart-takes/why-were-running-out-of-water/11164.

I am hoping to follow in Susan Leal's and Pete McBride's to help make an impact on our world to inform and teach how to conserve our most precious asset, before it is too late.

Posted by Brent Wilsford on 14 Feb 2012

The Colorado River is one of the most important water systems in the United States. Draining watersheds from seven western states, it is divided into two major districts, the Upper Basin comprised of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, and the Lower Basin formed by Nevada, Arizona, and California.

Posted by Budi Marvic on 21 Feb 2012

As a former Arizonan, I was used to seeing dried up creeks and low lake water. I had no idea the Colorado River dried up near the basin, looking like many of the creeks running through the middle of the desert. Sad, really!

Water rights in the west and the fight for enough water to quench the desert leaves little down stream. With the new bridge over the Hoover Dam, making access into Las Vegas easier, I wonder if we will see more bedroom communities contribute to the number of fingers reaching in to drain the once mighty river.

Posted by Paula Henry on 01 Apr 2012

This documentary was stellar, I can't say enough about how impressed I was with it.

Excellent Job Pete!

Posted by Regent on 06 Apr 2012

That's great that the city of Las Vegas pays homeowners to have grass removed from their lawns. That's actually a model that more cities should consider trying. (Kudos to John Waterman paddling length of entire river!)

Posted by Mike Woods from Carmel Indiana on 19 Apr 2012

Humans never think about the simple luxuries we take for granted everyday. People think water is a renewable resource but they are sadly mistaken. Water is listed as a renewable resource but in reality the rate at which we are consuming water is not allowing for it to be replenished. All of our drinking water comes from two sources groundwater (underground aquifers) or surface water (lakes, rivers, streams). These sources renew themselves through the water cycle. This is where water moves from the earth to the air and back again. The most basic problem is as our population grows, so does the demand placed on the amount of water we consume. Therefore, water is being drawn out more quickly than it can replenish itself.

Posted by Woodrow McKaw on 19 Apr 2012

Thanks for telling the story so beautifully.

I forgive you for showing the Grand (aka Colorado) as the main stem instead of the original USGS designation of the Green per John Wesley Powell's work! The story is the same.

From a Wyoming native.

Posted by Diana on 24 May 2012

My wife and I recently rafted on the Colorado in Moab, it was beautiful. I didnt know that it no longer reaches the sea. What a shame and a disgrace.

Posted by bob hall on 25 Jun 2012

Incredible look at the Colorado and it's demise. surely it's time to invest in the river and restore at least a certain percentage to somewhere near it's original flow. There is a lack of traditional aboriginal knowledge in what is happening there, a problem of great concern. Rivers are living things, they literally deserve the same respect we afford all life forms.

Posted by Patrick Polchies on 18 Jul 2012

It seemed just about impossible to me that the "mighty Colorado" might run dry. I guess it was merely improbable and not quite impossible.

Posted by Julie on 21 Jul 2012

The movie was epic and gave me a new perspective not only in water issues but also in life. I want to thank you for putting the effort in and showing that you cared. I have been to Africa and have seen the horrible water contamination and can only imagine how much worse it can get. Now seeing the problem in Colorado why can't we do anything? I am 16 and I will do all I can do to make it better.

Posted by Olivia Lawson on 03 Aug 2012

Spectacular. I once swam the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. A magnificent experience. Thank you for taking me back. I only hope that one day my girls will be able to do the same.

Posted by Marianna Rothbard on 17 Aug 2012

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