Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Killing the Colorado River


Last updated 9/2/2016 at 4:28am

Eric A. Hansom

Drone shot of the Salton Sea.

Imperial Valley farmers are coming under increasing scrutiny for using the vast majority of the state's water. A desire to utilize the consistent weather despite the natural resources available, will always be an impossible balancing act. Crops require water and labor, laborers require houses, houses require water and with the ever expanding population surviving through alternative employment and ways of life throughout the west, there will always be an internal struggle throughout the state as to who or what has precedence.

As the main resource, the Colorado River is and has been, since 1922, the main life blood of the region. When the original agreement to divide the water between the seven western states was drawn up, communities were smaller and weather patterns were more reliable. Over population, Drought and an increase in food production has brought a seemingly abundant source almost to its knees.

A new documentary, Killing the Colorado, which premiered on The Discovery Channel Aug. 4, looks at the man made mistakes underpinning the mis-management of California's most valuable resource.

California's Imperial Valley is where the film begins. Huge farms, stretching for miles, blanket what was once an arid desert and has since become one of the country's most productive agricultural areas. An 80-mile pipe pumps water from the Colorado River across the desert through the All-American Canal to the citrus and vegetable farms.

The film draws on the discussion of the Salton Sea. Decades of agricultural drainage from Imperial Valley farms has kept the sea from shrinking however, as farms have begun to attempt to use less water, the amounts of run off available have decreased and the affect has now tipped the balance of salinity and ecology. The pollution gradually rapidly building up over the years has caused dry beds of toxic dust that threaten to drift across the state and the obnoxious odors become released at higher frequencies. The region currently has the highest rates of asthma, one of the largest desert farming communities and a commodity intrinsic to humanities existence that is becoming more valuable and scarce by the day.

Pointing the finger at farmers alone, would be short sighted and irresponsible. Many of the farms have been in existence for generations. They exist day to day on a fine wire balancing act. Whether or not some farms have put profit over community preservation and learnt to play the game, is a discussion for another day. Describing it as a government issue is lazy and a quick fix to getting a head ache as you bang your head against the wall. Should golf clubs rip out the grass and exist on artificial turf, as suggested by one reader?

Unfortunately, as we are finding more and more frequently there is no one solution or one finger to point. California has been living on borrowed time and wasting resources for years. It's no longer the next generations problem to deal with. The film is worth watching and discussing. Finding the answers will be a lot harder.


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