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Finding a river in the West that still behaves like a Western river -- one that rises and falls with the annual rush of melting snow -- is tough.
Water managers on the Colorado River are facing a unique moment.
Nara Bopp was working at a thrift store in Moab, Utah the morning of March 4 when her desk started moving.
“I immediately assumed that it was a garbage truck,” Bopp said.
The Colorado River is short on water. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at a slate of proposed water projects in the river’s Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
CIÉNEGA DE SANTA CLARA, MEXICO — Juan Butrón-Méndez navigates a small metal motorboat through a maze of tall reeds here in the Mexican state of Sonora.
SAN LUIS RIO COLORADO, MEXICO — From inside a small airplane, tracing the Colorado River along the Arizona-California border, it’s easy to see how it happened.
Each winter, anxious water managers, farmers and city leaders in the American Southwest turn their eyes toward the snowy peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains.
Water managers in the West met in Las Vegas last week for an annual conference, and on their agenda was figuring out how to deal with Lake Mead dropping to historically low levels.
Colorado River water managers have plenty to argue about. But there’s one thing on which nearly everyone who relies on the southwestern river can agree.
Water managers are worried about what continuing drought will do to the lake.
A warm spring has already melted much of the limited snowpack that sits high in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado.
A quiet, rising tension over water in the southwest has burst into the public square.
From the roof of Chuck McAfee’s adobe farmhouse in rural southwestern Colorado, you can see into three other states: Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
As the weather warms up, the water level of Lake Mead will once again become a topic of conversation - and a worry.
The biggest lake in California is shrinking.
In 2014, the Colorado River did something it hadn’t done in decades. For a few short weeks that spring, the overdrawn, overallocated river reached the Pacific Ocean.
The main focus of water managers up and down the Colorado River is keeping Lake Mead high enough that emergency drought measures do not have to kick in.