From Colorado to Ghost River

In addition to being a writer, essayist, soldier, adventurer, ranger and anarchist, Edward Abbey must be added to all this as a visionary.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 May 2023 Thursday 22:25
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From Colorado to Ghost River

In addition to being a writer, essayist, soldier, adventurer, ranger and anarchist, Edward Abbey must be added to all this as a visionary.

In a quote at the beginning of his La banda de la tonaza, a novel published in 1975 with the original title The monkey wrench gang, which soon became a myth in the radical defense of the environment, he makes this clarification: “This book, although fictional in its form, it is strictly based on true events. What is described is real or has happened. It all started just next year."

The four misfits who star in the story are engaged in sabotage to complicate the construction of dams in a place of high ecological value in the American West such as the Colorado River. There arose the two largest artificial lakes in the country, the Mead and the Powell.

"What used to be a mighty river is now a ghost," says the narrator.

Today more than ever the initial clarification of his story is understood. Abbey, something of a madman to many, had the good sense to glimpse the coming disaster in the 21st century. After two decades of drought and the transformation of its channel, the Colorado is a true ghost compared to what it was, with the consequent danger to the ecosystem and human coexistence itself.

Its basin spans seven states (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico). It provides electricity to a large part of the American West, irrigates more than 2.2 million hectares and supplies drinking water to 40 million Americans, including the large cities of Los Angeles and Phoenix. But everything is at imminent risk due to the climate emergency and the enormous exploitation of a meager volume.

After the ultimatum issued by the White House –either you fix it or we will do it from Washington–, the three states that make up the lower basin system (California, Arizona and Nevada) this week signed a plan to reduce the intake of water from the Colorado, a pact that has taken more than a year of negotiations.

The agreement establishes that the services of the water districts of the three states, 30 Native American tribes and the farmers will reduce the total amount of liquid they use by 13% (some 3.8 million liters), a historic cut that will cause , sooner rather than later, restrictions on both residents in the region and farmers. In compensation, the Joe Biden government will grant compensation of 1.2 billion dollars.

It is nothing more than a temporary solution to protect the reservoirs in Lakes Mead and Powell, which have fallen to critical levels in the last three years. You just have to see the reappearance of corpses (some stuffed into mafia-style drums), vehicles, homes or natural landscapes of immense beauty, which was the primary objective of preservation pursued by the gang of pliers that formed Abbey.

The plan should boost reservoir levels through 2026, said Eric Balken, executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute. Balken himself acknowledges that it is not enough to solve the Colorado crisis, but it is a step in the right direction. The heart of the matter, he remarked, is that there is an imbalance between supply and demand, much more water is used than what flows naturally in the river.

California, the state that consumes the most water and that had committed itself to suffering the least damage, agrees to contribute with a cut of just over 50%, while Arizona and Nevada will be the least affected.

Agriculture is going to take the worst part because it is the one that uses the most water.

One of the parties that has not been in the negotiation is the neighboring country, Mexico, where the Colorado flows into the Sea of ​​Cortez, despite the fact that it serves to irrigate their farmlands in the northwest.

Since the US seized control of the Colorado to turn the desert into agricultural land, the supply to Mexico has only dwindled. The decrease in its flow reaches 80%. Your farmers are the last in line on a ghostly river.