Introducing “How We Survive: The Worth of Water”
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The Colorado River feeds us and powers our lives, irrigating millions of acres of farmland and generating billions of kilowatt-hours in hydroelectric power. Forty million people get drinking water from the Colorado River. Cities from Denver to Los Angeles couldn’t exist without it. It supports 30 Tribal Nations.
But we’re using more water than the river has to give. The Colorado River has already lost trillions of gallons to rising temperatures over the last two decades. Meanwhile, rampant growth and water-intensive farming have depleted groundwater supplies. This means Western states must fundamentally rethink how water is divided up and used. In the latest season of “How We Survive,” we unpack the water crisis in the American West and investigate the solutions that could help us survive.
Marcelo: But I’m going to sing for you ready for some music.
Amy Scott: I’m totally ready. It’s not every day you find yourself drifting down a canal on a gondola being serenaded by a man named Marcelo. I could almost convinced myself I was in Venice, if it weren’t for the clouds painted on the ceiling. I’m actually in a Las Vegas resort. And the water is piped in from the Colorado River. So it seems kind of weird to be on a canal in the middle of the desert. Am I right?
Marcelo: Above the casinos. We’re on the second floor.
Amy Scott: Right. We’re on the second floor and on a canal in the desert.
Marcelo: 216,000 gallons of water above the restaurants.
Amy Scott: Wow. Hope the floor is strong.
Amy Scott: I’m Amy Scott, host of How We Survive a podcast for Marketplace about people navigating solutions to a changing climate. I spent the summer floating driving and hiking across the Southwest where one thing on everyone’s mind is water and how to get your hands on some.
Speaker 1: Whiskeys or drinking, water is for fighting.
Patt Mulroy: It has been a constant battle against mother nature.
Rhett Larson: You want water and I’ll get you all the water you want. Just going to have to pay for it.
Amy Scott: A mega drought has plagued the region for more than 20 years, the go to source of water, the Colorado River, can no longer accommodate everyone. And the West is still grappling with the unequal way water rights were distributed in the first place.
Stephen Roe Lewis: This goes back to our historic fight to regain our water right over 150 years ago, our water was stolen from us.
Amy Scott: And while some communities are left high and dry.
Leigh Harris: We’ve been six months now, with no real running water.
Speaker 2: We don’t have good running water at the house, it’s gone like rusty, you can’t really drink that.
Amy Scott: Others see a chance to cash in.
Shannon Schulz: In the West Water is going to be gold.
Speaker 3: It’s a trillion dollar market opportunity.
Amy Scott: But this is also a problem with a ton of fascinating solutions from harvesting water from the air to manipulating the weather.
Pauline Van Betten: A lot of times we’ll help people push back and say just leave mother nature alone. But we’re past that. We didn’t leave mother nature alone.
Summer Decker: Some solutions might seem a little unsavory.
Amy Scott: And this is wastewater, right? This is coming from the sewer?
Summer Decker: Originally yes.
Amy Scott: But we’re gonna have to get over the ick factor. If we want to keep living in the desert. We’re finding out what it will take to survive in the hotter, drier West. And what it might mean for all of us.
Jamie Stehly: It’s not just Kingman Arizona. Everybody’s going to start finding themselves in a battle for drinking water.
Amy Scott: A new season of How We Survive coming October 18.