Nourishing more than 30 million Americans living in the parched West with the most vital resource, the Colorado River is one of the most channeled, dammed, and lawsuit ridden rivers in the world. Called by some quite aptly as “America’s Nile,” the Colorado River extends approximately 1,450 miles into seven states and two countries.
Photographer Peter McBride has traversed the entire river, shooting images for his new book, The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict. McBride elucidates the details of the conflict in a recent interview. The delta, he explains, which was once an immense, flourishing ecosystem, has all but dried up. “It shows what happens when you ask too much of a limited resource: It disappears,” said McBride.
Half a century has gone by since the Colorado River met with the Sea of Cortez, but this spring, an accord between Mexico and the United States dubbed the Minute 319 has done something about that. Over a period of nearly two months, a 105,392-acre-foot pulse flow of water with a volume of around 34 billion gallons would be poured and flow through Morelos and down the arid channel. The concept was to simulate the dynamics of the Colorado’s traditional spring flood, timed to synchronize with the germination of cottonweed and willow seeds.
Peter McBride documented this momentous feat by way of a film and a book about this life saving concept for the Southwest. “To my amazement,” said McBride, “it kissed the sea this spring thanks to the hard work of many who lifted the gates of the last of 12 major dams on the river to release an experimental pulse flow across the parched delta. It was temporary and puny in the scheme of things – less than 1% of the river – but magical as it showed the world how we can restore natural habitats if we try. The goal was to not only restore the river, but native vegetation and fisheries which ultimately restore us, too.”
See his fantastic aerial images of river arteries as they once again channel water into the vast sea here.