The Colorado River Watershed provides drinking water to 40 million people, irrigates 6 million acres, and supports countless ecosystems across the West. Climate change has reduced water supply; demand grows inexorably. There is no easy solution in sight.
Nineteenth-century Anglo migrants reengineered the Hohokam (300 to 1500 CE) canal system to settle central Arizona. Beginning in 1902, federal policies spurred the construction of a region-wide water infrastructure of dams and canals that encouraged further industrial and urban growth. By the last decades of the 20th century, the Central Arizona Project transported water from the Colorado River more than 336 miles from Lake Mead through Phoenix to Tucson, opening the way for new development that has stretched the region’s water supply beyond its capacity.
By creating dialogues that raise awareness of Arizona and the Colorado River Basin’s precarious water situation, we seek to encourage community resilience and help citizens to make informed and just choices about the allocation of water.
Our Point of View
ASU students largely were aware that global warming has been transforming the world, but we were unaware of the interconnected feedbacks of climate change—especially its impacts on deserts in the southwest of the United States. As an online community of students drawn from more than a dozen states, we encountered water and climate change from vastly different perspectives. Through the lens of Arizona, and the Colorado River, we gained a new appreciation of how access to water has emerged as a central challenge for communities across the nation.
—Arizona State University
The Arizona Historical Society seeks to be the driving force strengthening Arizona’s communities by promoting history through its exhibits, programs, publications, and outreach, creating invaluable spaces for promoting public understanding of contemporary issues. Guiding the historical discovery of ASU students about the water issues the U.S. Southwest is facing underscores the importance of creating public dialogues around the historic and present issues associated with water.
—Arizona Historical Society