40 million Americans are dependent on the waters of the Colorado River. Because of the decreasing amount of rainfall in the region, experts are already warning that the river could run completely dry in the coming years. Photographer Jonas Kako headed to the Colorado's source in the snow-covered Rocky Mountains, and travelled down to its former delta in Mexico, to document life along its banks.
LFI: What is the biggest reason for the Colorado River to run dry?
Jonas Kako: The main reason for the river to run dry is the excessive diversion of its waters. Not only for agriculture, but for the growing needs of the big cities all over the West. Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver and Los Angeles take more water from the river than is replaced over winter. And we're not just talking about drinking water, but about the irrigation of green areas and golf courses.
What can be done to put an end to this situation?
There are many small-scale efforts being made to save the river. Las Vegas has even put water saving measures in place now; in general, a lot of water is recycled and fed back into the river. However, when the problem is discussed, it's mainly about the drought; not about climate change. Many people see it as a local problem and are under the impression that things will get better again, without having to make any major changes. In fact, the river running dry is a consequence of the climate crisis, and can only be solved globally. To achieve this depends on all of us.
How long have you been working on this project, and what were you able to learn from a photographic perspective?
During the first days of my journey, I felt rather overwhelmed by the scope of my project. Till that point, I had never taken on such a large, and geographically widespread, subject. Little by little, however, with every good picture, a common thread began to emerge. I've learnt how to weave loosely-connected, complex themes together into a large narrative tapestry. So far, I've spent a month and a half by the Colorado, and I'm heading back there in October, to find new protagonists and to reconnect with old acquaintances. (Interview: Danilo Rößger)
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