Photo courtesy of Pete McBride

From the Mag | Water Warriors | Pete McBride

Paddlers bring awareness to the Colorado River water scarcity

By Eugene Buchanan

Funny, but at birth, we're not given much actual substance. Sure we receive a few treasures, like our parents and their DNA, if we're lucky, and siblings and grandmas and grandpas. But mostly, we're given things. Disposable possessions like baby pajamas and boxes of diapers and pacifiers and cute plastic objects that make cute sounds.

Often overlooked is one of the greatest gifts of all, given to each human the moment they enter the world: Earth. It's rivers and oceans and lakes are something we all share, as is the health of those waterways.

None of us can solve all of Mother Earth's problems in one sitting. But the following seven paddlers are thinking globally, and acting locally, to bring awareness to important water problems in their areas.

Pete McBride
American Photo magazine lists Colorado native Pete McBride as “one of the top five water photographers” in the nation. Indeed, he's used his lens and critical eye to document waterways around the world for such magazines as Esquire, National Geographic and Smithsonian.

But it's a waterway close to his heart, the Colorado River, that he trained his camera on for a cause. Following the irrigation water that sustains his family’s Colorado ranch, McBride and author Jonathan Waterman spent two years running the entire Colorado, piecing together from source to sea to document the problems it faces. The result is the acclaimed coffee table book The Colorado River, Flowing Through Conflict, as well as McBride's award-winning film Chasing Water, which has won over 20 film festival awards including “Best Short Documentary” at Canada’s Banff Mountain Film Festival.

On many of the river sections, especially the flatwater portions in Colorado, Utah and on the delta, he relied on his standup to help with the mission.

"On the first 30 miles we were supported by canoe, and on the last 70 miles we went self-support on SUPs,” he says. “We even slept on them. They enabled us to move light and fast and get through tough bushwhacking terrain that no other watercraft that I know of could've managed."

It was all done to help document the river's plight. "I'm trying to get people to wake up to the fact that we have limited water in the West," he says. "Few people seem to realize that. Rivers are running dry beneath our noses and yet business continues as usual. There are too many straws in the drink and folks still want to build more. People out West need to realize that the water in their taps is Colorado River water."

And those people can help, he adds, by becoming aware of how limited the resource is and by visiting, a collaboration of non-profits working to preserve and protect the Colorado.

This Water Warrior feature originally ran in the Spring 2015 issue.

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