John Trotter

A street with bike land in a new subdivision in progress on the south end of Las Vegas.

Pascuala Sainz, 96, the oldest living Cucapá Indian, next to the polluted Rio Hardy.

Visitors glance over the edge of Glen Canyon Dam into Lake Powell on an Independence Day tour.

The San Felipito Bridge, which is the last over the Colorado River.

John Trotter‘s No Agua, No Vida.

I’d crossed the Colorado River many times over the years and once even spent a few days in a canoe on the Green, one of its main tributaries, wondering where all the water propelling my boat would eventually go. When I finally went to find that place, four years to the day after a near-death experience, I was ready for the river to take me far away from what I’d had to survive.

But the Colorado, I soon learned, was greatly reduced from what it once was and no longer made its ancient rendezvous with the Sea of Cortez. Powerful men north of the border had other destinations planned for the river and in 1922 divided its annual flow between seven U.S. states and Mexico. On this foundation and with the help of many dams, the southwestern United States as we know it has been built. Without water from the Colorado, cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego would not exist as we know them.

But as it has turned out, the foundation of everything, the premise of 1922, is false and more water has been promised to each player than historically actually exists in the river. My ongoing documentary project explores that false perception of the river as an unlimited, plentiful resource, as well as the consequences of this belief.

© John Trotter

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