It is climate change that is sucking the Colorado River dry, or the fact that too many people have too many straws in its water? Actually it’s both, we learned during our yearly Harvard GSD Loeb Fellowship study trip that went to Denver, Colorado this year. So yes this is a big story. I touched on some of the pertinent issues in this article for the Loeb Fellowship website (pdf and images below).
There were some real eye-openers on this trip, for example when Daryl Virgil, a member of the Jicarilla Apache nation and cofounder of the Water and Tribes Initiative, told us that half a million Native Americans still have no reliable access to clean water and sanitation. But it was heartening to learn that some towns near Denver have prohibited the use of water-guzzling invasive plants in people’s gardens. We got a close look at how Denver is taking water into account in the design for the ‘River Mile’ – a huge swath of land in the city center that is in private hands – and for new riverside parks that also provide flood protection for surrounding neighborhoods.
On that same note: in episode 3 of my podcast Water Talks I also spoke with Austin Nuñez, a Native American from Arizona, about the 23 yearlong courtcase his tribe filed against the national government about their water rights – and they won! (The amount of water in the Colorado River, however, is none the greater for it).