Feats of engineering and human ingenuity have made it possible for the Colorado River to irrigate 3.5 million acres of farmland and support 30 million people on arid lands throughout the western U.S. and northern Mexico. Distant cities, including some of the fastest growing in the nation—L.A., Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, and Albuquerque—depend upon its waters and have transformed it into one of the most diverted, litigated, and loved rivers in the world. Yet the Colorado hasn’t reached the sea for 13 years and the Delta, once one of the greatest desert estuaries, is now in danger of losing 360 bird species, a once robust fishing economy and culture, along with all manner of ocean life in the Sea of Cortez.
To call attention to the crisis, Writer Jon Waterman and Photographer Pete McBride began their Colorado River Project in 2007. Since then, they have created a body of work—a National Geographic Wall map, an award winning film, an ongoing public lecture campaign, blogs, a traveling photo exhibit and two award winning books (below) that frame a growing national awareness about the Colorado River’s challenges.