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for people who care about the West

Life along the Colorado River

 

See a slideshow of Broussalian's images of the Colorado River -- and its people.

The desert Southwest is unlikely to run out of water. But under the pressures of climate change and drought, population and politics, the Southwest is likely to run out of cheap water. The deal of the century will become last century's deal.

Last summer, inspired by an environmental policy class at the University of Colorado at Boulder, 23-year-old Kasia Broussalian set out to meet and photograph some of the people who depend on the precarious generosity of the Colorado River. Broussalian, who recently graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism, traveled with Wall Street Journal photographer Brian Frank, whom she'd met at a photography workshop, and Frank's girlfriend, Jasmin Lopez, who grew up near the mouth of the Colorado in far northern Mexico. For two sweltering months, the three worked their way along the course of the lower Colorado, knocking on doors, striking up conversations, and following one lead to the next.

Broussalian photographed teenagers at play in urban skate parks, elderly men at work in Mexican onion fields, and a long-legged accounting major who spends her summers handing out drink coupons near the fountains of the Las Vegas Strip. Broussalian and Frank followed engineer Randy Donnanemma into the depths of the Hoover Dam, and spent days combing Phoenix suburbs for signs of life. ("We found out that the only people outside in June are those who don't have air conditioning," says Broussalian.) Later in the summer, she traveled solo along the northern reaches of the Colorado, where she photographed farmers, rafters and rodeo cowboys.

Everywhere she went, Broussalian was struck by the tremendous variety of human lives and livelihoods tied together by a single river -- and by the magnitude of the changes that lie ahead. "Once something as basic as water starts to get more expensive, what's going to happen?" she asks. "What are these places going to look like? What are people going to do?"