In 1922, over a decade before the first of the great dams were built on the Colorado River, its water was divided up between seven U.S. states and Mexico. That compact, almost 90 years ago, set in stone the portions that each state could expect to receive, even before many of them were developed enough to begin to use it all. But over the years, as the population of the Colorado River user states has exploded, made possible primarily by the mass diversion of the river’s water, it also became clear that its total annual average flow was overestimated by as much as 20 percent. For decades, so much has been taken from the Colorado that it has rarely made its ancient rendezvous with the Sea of Cortez. And this past October, Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, still the largest man-made reservoir in the Western Hemisphere, recorded its lowest level since being filled 75 years ago. The future looks turbulent for the 30 million people who depend on the Colorado River for their water.
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An exhibition of John Trotter’s photographs, “No Agua, No Vida, The Slow Death of the Colorado River Delta,” will be on display January 25-February 27 in the Hatcher Library Gallery, 100 Hatcher Graduate Library.