The Colorado River: A Fight over Liquid Gold

In a huge portion of the parched West, life would be impossible without the Colorado River. Now the very prosperity that its waters created threatens the river's survival.

The Colorado River begins high above the tree lines, amid the glaciers and snowpack on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. Icy rivulets collect and drip into streams, trickling and then plunging downward. In the peaks of eastern Utah, where the Green River hurtles south from Wyoming to meet the Upper Colorado, the water starts getting serious. It wants to reach sea level -- in this case the Gulf of California, some thousand miles to the southwest -- and nothing natural has ever managed to stand in its way. In its slashing, headlong rush, the Colorado gouged out a pretty...

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