“Whiskey is for Drinking and Water is for Fighting”
As a fisheries biologist in the arid Rocky Mountains of the western United States, I often find myself between various conflicting “users” of water. My home is within the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin, which is the source of water for millions of people, from Colorado all the way to California. In addition to providing drinking water for households, the Colorado River also supports agriculture, hydroelectric power generation, snowmaking at ski resorts, as well as various forms of tourism vital to local economies such as kayaking, white water rafting, and fly-fishing. Water is even diverted from the Colorado River basin, across the continental divide through tunnels to large metropolitan areas such as Denver. Essentially every drop of water is allocated to someone with a legal water right.
My role is to help balance traditional water uses with the needs of aquatic ecosystems. Native fish in the Colorado River such as the humpback chub or Colorado pikeminnow are close to extinction, in large part due to water management by humans. Large dams and reservoirs constructed to capture snowmelt have drastically altered the aquatic environment. Declines in water supplies due to increases in the frequency of drought, along with the the growth of human populations in these dry lands have intensified the battles over water. If projected declines in water supply due to climate change prove to be accurate, water conservation will become even more critical to avoid the extinction of Colorado River fish, as well for providing clean drinking water.
This photo was taken of East Lake Creek, within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. The stream supports one of a few populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout, which is the only native trout species to western Colorado. To see more photos from the western United States or purchase prints, visit my gallery at http://bhealyphoto.zenfolio.com/.