The Colorado Delta was once one of the world’s great desert estuaries. Legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold fell in love with the place, enraptured by its labyrinth of channels and ponds fringed by lush vegetation, teeming with birds and haunted by the nocturnal screams of jaguars.
I don’t mean to pick on any one city here. But I do want to raise awareness of the implications of our choices about where to live.
If you live in a place where it’s rarely cloudy (e.g., Las Vegas), or where it never rains during the warm half of the year (e.g., California), understand that getting water to your tap requires a massive reworking of natural systems and that water is particularly precious in such places.
And if you live where you wish you saw more of the sun, remember those clouds are water-delivery trucks lining up to keep your city sustainably watered and more resilient and prepared for climate change.
Jeff Opperman is The Nature Conservancy’s senior advisor for sustainable hydropower. He works to promote ecologically sustainable water management in river basins with hydropower infrastructure. Through this work, Jeff has provided strategic and scientific assistance to environmental flow assessments for several rivers in the United States and for the Yangtze River and the Patuca River (Honduras).
(Top image: A sunny day at the beach on Lake Erie. Though blessed with plentiful freshwater, such blue-sky days are less common in Northern Ohio than in much of the country. Image credit: Jeff Opperman. Lower image: on left, the parched Colorado River Delta in Mexico, showing the maze of twisting channels that once were filled with water and surrounded by lush forests and wetlands; on right, Phoenix, AZ, with lawns, golf courses and pools sustained by Colorado River water. Image credit: Google Earth).