Report — From the April 2014 issue

Razing Arizona

Will drought destroy the Southwest?

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It was a river of drought, low enough that we could walk alongside the rafts, our feet sinking into the silky bottom. We had put in near Moab, Utah, at the mouth of Meander Canyon, where the Colorado River turns sluggish after racing out of the Rocky Mountains. There would be no worry about rapids for the next forty miles, not until Cataract Canyon, a stretch of white water that has a penchant for flipping boats and killing boatmen. Occasionally our rafts caught on sandbars and spun like lily pads, and we had to rally around them in the water and push. Where the flow deepened to the waist, a big-toothed writer named Bill deBuys, of New Mexico, who was once a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his book River of Traps, got out and swam. All but one of our party — the trip leader, John Weisheit, a slope-shouldered, slow-talking Moab river runner who had given up alcohol — popped open cold beers and jumped into the water, escaping the August heat as our boats drifted.

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is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. His article “Stop Payment!” appeared in the January 2012 issue.

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  • Seamous O’Reason

    What an important and well informed article. Watching the inevitable downfall of a river system and a city system in slow motion is frightening. Thank you for spelling out the obvious so wonderfully.

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