The Cerro Prieto geothermal power plant in Sonora Mexico allegedly pollutes a large swath of the Colorado River in Mexico. Downstream many people rely on the water to provide fish and water for agriculture, while to the north, the United States purchases a large percentage of the power created by the plant.
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Eleven year old Cucapa Indian fisherman Eduardo Saynz Gonzalez retrieves an empty net from the receding waters that were once abundant with fish in his village's traditional fishing grounds near Mexicali, Mexico. As the Colorado has run dry in the area, the Cucupa have been especially hard hit as they have watched the water disappear.
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An agricultural laborer tends to an onion field in Sonora Mexico, near the United States border. A majority of the arable land in the region has been purchased or leased by United States based corporate farmers who broker water deals to irrigate their lands. Smaller, privately owned farms cannot compete, as the last of the groundwater supply dries up.
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Sitting on her family's failing farm, a grandmother is comforted by her daughter in Sonora, Mexico. The farm, with its thin cows and now arid land, sits only yards from where the Colorado River once provided life.
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Clutching his curandero cross on the failing family farm.
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The Salton Sea in California's Imperial Valley was once a thriving tourist destination created by the Colorado River fed Salton Sea. But as the Sea died from pollution and dried out from the effects of global warming, inhabitants and tourists faded away like the waters. Slab City, which is a community of people who live on the fringe of society, sprung up amongst the ruins of what was once a military base in the area.
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Irrigation canals in the middle of the Arizona desert.
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Cucapa indian Chief Francisco Cecena Diaz draws a diagram in the sand of where the Colorado River historically passed through their native fishing grounds. The waters have receded so far that they have had to fish illegally in protected waters, in order to sustain themselves, leading to conflicts with the Mexican government and Greenpeace.
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Children play in an irrigation ditch, or "poso" in Sonora, Mexico. The "poso" system is used to irrigate fields in Mexico, but have also been a breeding ground for infections and poisonings as farmers sometimes dump pesticides in the water without notice.
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Once a flowing, lush river, the Colorado runs dry in Sonora, Mexico.
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The Hoover dam tamed the mighty Colorado River and currently regulates water flow to the Southwest United States and Mexico. When Mexican farmers require more than their alloted water to irrigate their crops, they must purchase the water from the United States, an impossibility for smaller farmers.
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Power lines stretch from the Serra Prieto geothermal powerplant in Sonora Mexico. The United States purchases a large amount of power from the plant, which doesn't have to abide by the strict environmental standards imposed in the USA. Because of the lax Mexican regulation, the plant can provide power cheaply to its US consumers.
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California receives 4.4 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River, a large percentage going to Los Angeles.
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The Bellagio Hotel, a 30 story luxury hotel with a surrounding 8.5 acre lake sits in the middle of the desert in Las Vegas Nevada. The fountains of the Bellagio cost an estimated $75 million to create, and spray the waters of the Colorado to entertain tourists.
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Sitting in the lap of luxury, a woman sunbathes in a pool near Phoenix, Arizona in temperatures near 115 °F.
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Jasmin, a bartender at the Hogs and Heifers bar in downtown Las Vegas dances on the bar to try and drum up mid-day business. The movie "Coyote Ugly," with its dancing girl bartender stars was inspired by the Hogs and Heifers bar.
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After smoking methamphetamines, a bartender sneers at a prostitute plying her trade in the hot Sonoran desert near the United States border in Mexico. As the agricultural economies in the region have dried up, vice has risen in some local communities.
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A laborer waits at dawn to begin a shift picking onion for less than a dollar an hour in the sweltering heat near the United States border in Sonora, Mexico. Many of the remaining arable farmland is run by US corporate farm interests, with all of the produce being exported to the US.
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Mexican agricultural workers pick grapes on the fertile lands near Grand Junction, Colorado. Seasonal workers migrate the thousands of miles from Mexico to Colorado every year to pick the grapes that create the region's wines.
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Laborers wait at dawn to begin a shift picking onion for less than a dollar an hour in the sweltering heat near the United States border in Sonora, Mexico.
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As the waters of Lake Meade have dropped, residents have relocated however a few long time residents remain, fishing its receding waters.
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A child plays alone in his suburban backyard near Phoenix, Arizona.
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A young girl stands and cries in the desert heat of Arizona after her being hosed down with water in their front yard near Phoenix. The family could not afford air conditioning, so improvised the best they could to keep cool.
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The old US Navy pool is used for skateboarding by local youngsters in Slab City, CA. Once a thriving tourist destination, as the Salton Sea dried up and became polluted, residents fled, and tourists didn't return, leaving the area inhabited by many living on the fringe of society.
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A man sits waiting for the air conditioned bus to arrive in the desert heat of Las Vegas.
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Lake Meade, a reservoir fed by the Colorado, has seen its water level drop over 100 feet in current years as a combination of drought, increased agricultural use, a booming Las Vegas population and global warming have taken their toll.
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An abandoned house boat sits idle at Lake Meade, NV.
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A fire destroys a business in the Salton Sea area of the Imperial Valley in California. The business was one of the last businesses standing in the mostly deserted area that was once a thriving tourist destination, but deteriorated as the sea, which was created by the Colorado River, died from pollution and dried out from the effects of global warming.
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The future of the Colorado is uncertain as multiple factors threaten not only the water source itself, but the cultures along its shores.
Death of The Colorado
The Colorado River, a waterway that stretches over 1400 miles from its origins in the northwest United States to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, is a dying waterway. The river is a shell of its former self as overpopulation, pollution, damning, global warming and apathy combine to deteriorate not only the natural habitat, but also degrade the cultures and economies that historically relied upon its bounty for life.