November 10, 1986
Part 4 of the award-winning four-issue series Western Water Made Simple.
In the high arid plains of southwest Wyoming, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has built Rube Goldberg irrigation systems that keep farmers on the edge of poverty and load up the rivers with salt.
The upper Colorado River was plumbed to put water on arid lands and to generate electricity. Today those uses are in decline while recreation, urbanization and aesthetics come on strong. Through luck or forethought, the river's plumbing is proving adaptable to the new demands.
An account of the settlement of Mexico's Mexicali Valley; the escape and subsequent recapture of the Colorado River in the early 1900s; the shattering of a made-in-the-U.S.A. hacienda; and the settlement of an international dispute over the river's saltiness.