Etched Conservation Issue 2017
Chasing Water... The Lifeline of the Desert
It was 1968. After signing a land lease with the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), my family would ultimately trade highly urbanized southern California for the vast and barren desert of Parker, Arizona. It was only a few hours away, yet worlds apart. To give you an idea of the landscape, Major General George Patton trained his troops for warfare in the vicinity during World War II. The most extremes of the desert could be found in this region and it would become my new normal. The caveat? The Colorado River.
Life on “the river” was easy ... and peaceful. Dad taught my brothers and me survival and how to live off of the river. They hunted fowl in the backwaters. We fished off our dock. Mom taught us to appreciate our view. I could tell you what time sunset would be because we watched them nightly. If a monsoon was rolling in, we would bet when it would hit based upon the calm before the storm on the water. When Headgate Dam opened its gates, I knew how long it would take for the river to rise. On the days the gates didn’t open, it was as if my friend couldn’t come out to play.
My front yard contained the seventh longest river in the country and the Southwestern states’ largest producing water source. But as a kid, the relevance of the mighty Colorado was irrelevant. I joyfully sat, swam, floated, and skied with ‘her’. In the summer heat, I lived in the river; in the winter, I hiked along her shoreline. I love the river—it runs through my veins.
My dad documented our relocation beginning in 1968 by creating photo albums. I have held onto those memories tightly since he passed away. Recently, I pulled out all five of the albums, this time, while sitting on my own dock along the Colorado River. The river runs deep ... deep through the soul. As I look out across the nearby Mojave Reservation I am reminded that the river has been an important source of life for Native American groups for over 12,000 years. I can’t help but wonder how the rising demands on the Colorado’s limited supply are threatened by a warming climate that shrinks its alpine source.
During an interview for the Arizona Republic, Doug Kenney, chair of the Colorado River Research Group stated, “Cities will have to grow within their means, through conservation and by paying farmers to save and transfer water. When the river already falls short of supplying everyone who has a legal right to it, there’s no sensible way of taking more from it.”
I’m not a scientist, but a trip to Lake Powell and Lake Mead will remind you of the water level that once was. The Conservation Issue of Etched, Chasing Water, connects you to the lifeline and landscape of the Southwest. In our pages, you will meet Pete McBride—a writer, filmmaker, photographer, adventurer, and explorer whose passion for the Colorado River has manifested throughout his work. Catch up with the Nature Conservancy and their latest projects directly connected to preserve the Colorado River from the states who drink from it. Wander Highway 93 through the lens of Nick Adams who so uniquely provides perspective to the erosive beauty along the route. Whether your chasing water or the pavement, this issue of Etched goes deep into the stories and places in the heart of the desert.
It’s been over forty years since I fell in love with the river. I still sit along its shore, watching the water flow by only now it’s with my husband and our grandkids. We witness the brilliantly colored sunsets unfold. As a fish jumps out of the water and the light catches the ripples, I feel my dad’s presence. All because the river runs through here ... and through me.