Published On: Mon, Aug 1st, 2016

Discovery’s ‘Killing the Colorado’ premieres on August 4

DAMMED IF YOU DO – Directed by Jesse Moss

“In a dry area like southwest New Mexico, water is everything—it’s more important than oil to us,” states Vance Lee, a cattle rancher.  And we are now seeing nasty political fights over water rights, just like the ones that have been waged over oil for more than a century.

As water becomes scarcer, state governments have attempted to transform the Colorado River into a giant plumbing system in an effort to control nature and move water where they want it to go. While this approach has enabled the rapid growth of the West, our reliance on large infrastructure projects has also led to massive leaks, evaporation, and inefficiency.

KILLING THE COLORADO highlights the latest efforts in New Mexico to build a dam that would capture water from a still-untamed stretch of the Gila River, a small tributary of the Colorado, presumably to avert future water shortages. Neighboring Arizona controls most of the Gila’s water rights, which the state uses to supply its farms and cities. Now, Congress is allowing New Mexico to claim more water from the river, with $62 million of federal funds. A fierce debate over the value—and wisdom—of the project has followed.

“From the earliest days, Americans have tried to build their way out of water scarcity in the West. But the best dam sites have all been taken, leaving only the most expensive and inefficient options,” said Lustgarten. Despite the problematic history of even the best water management projects, many states are considering new efforts to wrangle their water supply in the face of this massive shortage. Is it even still possible to dam our way out of drought? And, if so, at what incredible cost?

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