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Photo Slideshow: Above the Colorado River

A bird’s eye view of the Colorado River demonstrates how persistent drought conditions affect the basin and how the southern Nevada region manages its share of what trickles down.

Colorado River Basin aerial
Image © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
A bend in the Colorado River north of Lake Havasu. Click image to enlarge slideshow.

Photographs by J. Carl Ganter
Circle of Blue

The Colorado River supplies water to 30 million people, as well as thousands of hectares of agricultural land. It originates from Rocky Mountain snowmelt in Colorado and Wyoming, flows through Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, and spills out into the brackish delta on the Gulf of California, in Mexico. The river spans 2,333 kilometers (1,450 miles), having carved out the steep caverns of the Grand Canyon eons ago.

In 1922, the seven riparian U.S. states entered into the Colorado River Compact, which stipulated how to share the river’s waters and which divided the basin into upper and lower regions for management. Over 100 dams have been built along the river by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers. However, as flows and lake levels within the basin decline, due to persistent drought and climate change factors, projects like the Hoover Dam on Lake Mead in Nevada are at risk. (See how decreased lake levels have prompted a $US 800 million project to install a third intake in the Hoover Dam in this interactive infographic on the water levels of Lake Mead.)

During a recent visit to Las Vegas and the WaterSmart Innovations Conference, Circle of Blue director J. Carl Ganter joined Doug Bennett, conservation manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, for an early morning flight down the Colorado River.

Click through the photo gallery below to enlarge the images. Bennett’s commentary accompanies each photograph.

Colorado River Basin Lake Mead Las Vegas Hoover Dam droughtColorado River Basin Hoover Dam Lake Mead droughtLake Mead's bathtub ring Colorado River Hoover Dam drought
Colorado River Basin snowmelt Rocky mountain water consumer producerColorado River Basin farm land agriculture crops irrigation wells mojave desertColorado River Basin farm land agriculture crops irrigation wells mojave desert
Colorado River Basin farm land floodplain agriculture crops irrigation wells mojave desertColorado River Basin Wildlife Refuge endangered speciesColorado River Basin Bridges Pipelines Infrastructure lake havasu
Colorado River BasinColorado River Basin Las Vegas Lake HavasuColorado River Basin Lake Havasu recreation reservoir
Colorado River Basin pumping station california lake havasu aqueductColorado River Basin Lake Havasu Energy Pumping station lake havasu california aquedecutColorado River Basin Lake Havasu central arizona project california aqueduct
Colorado River Basin Central Arizona Project energy to move waterColorado River Basin Central Arizona Project Canal underground pipe tuscon phoenix arizonaColorado River Basin Lake Havasu Parker Dam Central Arizona Project California aqueduct
Colorado River Basin baseball diamond in Ballpark Desert Grass irrigationColorado River Basin Central Mojave DesertColorado River Basin Dry Lake Beds
Colorado River Basin Swimming Pool Las Vegas strip hotel fountains water awareness efficiencyColorado River Basin Ivanpah Solar Project California thermal solar electricColorado River Basin Dry Lake Beds
Click the images above to open in a photo gallery. All images © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

Follow the photographer’s route.

View Larger Map

Explore the natural features of the Colorado River Basin with this interactive graphic from National Geographic.

  1. […] Photo Slideshow: Above the Colorado River (Circle of Blue) ‘The Colorado River gives our local people the opportunity to see the impacts of the drought and see the connection to their water supply. As Lake Mead’s level began to drop, it became the poster child for the conditions we needed to prepare for. At the drought’s peak, there was a 120-foot-tall white ring around that lake — that’s 12 stories high — and we lost trillions of gallons of water. People connected with that.’ -Doug Bennett, conservation manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority […]

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