The lush green slopes of the Rocky Mountains are the source of almost all the water that keeps the American Southwest alive. The winter snowpack slowly melts over the year, guaranteeing a steady supply of water for its many rivers of which the Colorado is the most important. If temperatures rise through climate change, there may not be any snow in a few decades. The winter precipitation will immediately run off, leaving the summers dry and hot without enough water. Photos: Ronald de Hommel
After the Shadow Mountain Dam, the first dam on the Colorado River, high in the Rocky Mountains, there is nothing natural about the river anymore. Its flow is completely regulated by humans. It is the main plumbing system of the American Southwest, featuring some of the most famous water works in the world.
Irrigated farmland is the biggest consumer of Colorado River water. Throughout the Southwest millions of acres are watered to produce water thirsty crops like lettuce, cotton and alfalfa. The dry and warm climate makes several harvests a year possible. So there’s always a big conflict between the opposition that says you shouldn’t grow lettuce in the desert and the farmers that emphasize their productivity.
Photo’s: Ronald de Hommel and Johannes Abeling
The Salton Sea is one of the last remaining wetlands in California and an important resting area for migrating birds of the Pacific Flyway. Four million birds are estimated to use the lake daily in winter. In summer the water temperature of the shallow lake rises so high that millions of Tilapia die from lack of oxygen. Other fish spieces have disappeared years ago they couldn’t survive the salt level of more than 30% higher than the Pacific Ocean.
Photo’s: Johannes Abeling and Ronald de Hommel