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
The Colorado river is fed by melting snow water from the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. One of its many tributaries, the Gunnison river, has its source near Crested Butte, a pristine mountain resort high in the Rockies, close to the well-known ski resort Aspen.