The Sonoran desert of the American Southwest and the Canaima National Park of Venezuela face two distinct but analogous challenges. A rapid increase in human population without the necessary shift in consumption or technology to address the long term affects of continued growth.
The Sonoran desert, shared by the United States and Mexico, has seen its population rise sharply over the past half century. This recent growth was made possible by large scale projects that brought additional water into the region(Harrison 188). The population boom has put a tremendous load on water resources as well as on the species that rely on them. The Colorado River, for example had flowed without interference into the Gulf of California “furnishing nutrients to an exceptionally rich marine ecosystem… [for a]… millennia”. The construction of the the Laguna Dam in 1909 on the main stem of the Colorado River has dramatically impacted the marine life in the delta marshes that it fed. The change in the flow of the Colorado River has also had a negative effect upon agriculture further down the river in Mexico. Most of the water was used before ever reaching Mexico, increasing the salinity of the river to dangerously high levels that have devastated agriculture. This problem has been rectified somewhat by the relatively recent construction of the Yuma desalination plant that brings the salinity level down before entering Mexico, while dumping the brine created in the desalinization process directly into the Santa Clara Marsh(Varady 104). (more…)