When 40 million people in the Southwest get up in the morning, brush their teeth, have a glass of water, or make their coffee, they ought to give a nod to our creator. That water came from the mighty Colorado river that sustains those 40 million in seven American states and two Mexican states.
The mighty flow of the Colorado begins with a single drop of snow melt, from the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado, joins with hundreds of billions of other single drops, and begins a massive flow, first southward, then turning southwest, pouring out more than 18 million acre feet of water per year that once flooded low lying areas before rushing to the sea. Over the millennia it carved out the mighty Grand Canyon, a grand display of its might.
Before the Colorado was tamed in the 20th century only the native people and a few brave pioneers dared to live in the parched and arid southwest. Then, a hundred years ago, man began to tame the Colorado, building dams at a dozen major points and hundreds more at the river's tributaries. As the Colorado moves down the 1,450 mile path to the sea it is diverted time and time again, to water lush croplands, to provide hydroelectric power, to quench the thirst of 40 million people and to provide lush "rest stops" for tens of thousands of waterfowl. And even away from the mighty river's primary flows, its waters feed underground rivers that fill aquifers far below that act as hundred mile sponges that sustain life where no life would be possible without them.
Man's dominance of the mighty Colorado is such that, now, less than ten percent of the Colorado's water ever reaches the sea. Alas, we have been accustomed to believing we don't live in a desert and are now taxing the capacity of even the mighty Colorado to sustain the millions who come to the American Southwest each year. That doesn't mean we haven't tried; the people of Nevada and Arizona use less water today than we did 20 years ago, despite a doubling or tripling of our state's population.
It looks like we'll have to do more. We've got to employ greater water conservation measures just to sustain what we have now.
I remember, as a young four year old boy, migrating from Oklahoma to California. We stopped our old pickup truck and walked out onto the bridge over the Colorado that separates California and Arizona. I remember looking down into the brown, rumbling waters as the Colorado still roared mightily to the sea....it was a bit scary looking down at it. Another 30 million people have moved into the southwest since then. Where there were once deserts with cacti and sage, there now are date farms and lettuce fields and cattle ranches and dairy farms and green alfalfa fields and mighty cities rising to the skies.
And it all began with a single drop of snow melt some 1,450 miles up stream, in the majestic mounts of Wyoming and Colorado. God's bounty, no more evident than right here in the southwest where Eden was created.