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The Colorado from end to end

The Colorado from end to end.

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Those Who Lived On The River

A Mexican fisherman cleans his meagre catch of the day in El Mayor. He is one of the very few that survive from fishing. The more than 30.000 Cucapa Indians that used to live off fishing have left. The few remaining ones say the fish is too polluted, it’s not good to eat, only to sell. The only source of water, the small Rio Hardy, is fed by agricultural and industrial runoff. A major earth quake in April 2010 drained most of the little water that remained. The original population that left the area because the US took their water has tried to move to that country for a better future.

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The Colorado River delta from the air

Since 1960 the Colorado River delta in Mexico has hardly received any water. Tens of thousands of indigenous fishermen have lost their livelihood. What remains is a barren wasteland. The 10% of Colorado water that Mexico receives from the US is used to supply Tijuana, Mexicali and a few other cities. The remainder irrigates an increasingly saline agricultural zone just north of the Delta.

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On the Border

The American – Mexican border is one of the best protected frontiers in the world. In recent years America has built a steel fence thousands of kilometers long through the desert to keep Latin Americans out. Only water passes the fence unharmed. But the quantity gets less and less each year. So the US has started up an old Desalination plant in Yuma that lay dormant for 2 decades, to see if it can supply Mexico with enough water by cleaning agricultural runoff. The water is added to the Colorado River that Mexico diverts entirely at the border. It uses the water for agriculture and major cities like Tijuana and Mexicali.

Photos: Ronald de Hommel

The Colorado River is the lifeline of the American Southwest. Its watershed covers seven states and Mexico. More than 100% of its water is used for recreation, agriculture and drinking water. the water is heavily recycled and re-used. Because of the over-use of the water the massive reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell have gone down in the past ten years to below 50% capacity.

Users that lose out on the water are nature and poorer areas. Great wetlands, like the river delta in Mexico, but also the Salton Sea in California have received hardly or no water in the last decades resulting in desertification and resettlement of population.

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