The Colorado River begins as snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains and ends 1,450 miles south in Mexico after making a final sacrifice to the United States: water for the farm fields in this powerhouse of American produce.
Throughout the winter, perfect heads of romaine, red-and-green lettuce, spinach and broccoli are whisked from the warm desert soil here onto refrigerated trucks that deliver them to grocery stores across the continent. If you eat a green salad between Thanksgiving and April, whether in Minnesota, Montreal or Modesto, odds are good that some of it was grown in or around Yuma.
The summer freshness on all of those winter plates reflects the marvel of engineering the Colorado has become — and why managing the river in the Southwest’s changing landscape seems so daunting.
The Colorado is suffering from a historic drought that has exposed the region’s dependence on a single, vulnerable resource. Nearly 40 million people in seven states depend on the river, a population some forecasts say could nearly double in the next 50 years.