You may have heard this before: The Colorado River, which supplies drinking water to seven states in the US and two in Mexico, is the lifeblood of the American West and beyond. It’s drying up at an alarming rate, threatening cities, industries, agriculture, and energy sources. As it shrinks, rich ecosystems across its 1,450 miles are also disappearing.
In this issue of The Highlight, Vox’s reporters across the science, health, climate, and Future Perfect teams explore the interconnected causes of this crisis, the startling consequences that are already reshaping life in this important region of the world, and the difficult trade-offs we may need to accept to avert disaster.
The worst-case scenario for drought on the Colorado River
One in eight Americans depend on a river that’s disappearing.
By Umair Irfan
You — yes, you — are going to pay for the century-old mistake that’s draining the Colorado River
A huge amount of US food is grown in the desert using water from a river that’s drying up.
By Benji Jones
Let’s talk about the biggest cause of the West’s water crisis
The Colorado River is going dry ... to feed cows.
By Kenny Torrella
The devil lurking in the dust
How extreme weather is driving a deadly fungus further into the American West
By Keren Landman
These 8 species depend on the Colorado River. What happens as it dries up?
Wildlife needs water, too.
By Benji Jones
Editors: Sam Oltman, Brian Resnick, Adam Clark Estes, Bryan Walsh
Copy editors/fact-checkers: Elizabeth Crane, Kim Eggleston, Tanya Pai, Caitlin PenzeyMoog
Additional fact-checking: Anouck Dussaud, Sophie Hurwitz
Art direction: Dion Lee, Paige Vickers
Audience: Gabriela Fernandez, Shira Tarlo, Agnes Mazur
Production/project editors: Lauren Katz, Nathan Hall