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Colorado River

Investigating water management and use

Alexandra and the Expedition Blue Planet team headed to the Colorado River to examine one of the key pieces of the big picture of our water resources--water use and management.

The use and management of the Colorado River literally exhausts its supply; its 1,450 mile long path now ends in the dust and shimmering heat of the Mexican desert. This iconic river propelled the nation’s drive into the arid Southwest and shaped its culture. Today, its tamed waters power city lights and fuel urban growth and agriculture; its waters slake the thirst and energy demands of 30 million people in its basin.

The Expedition Blue Planet team explored how this massive river flow is managed and became acquainted with all of its faces, from its headwaters in the rockies where the very first drops of its flow are diverted for the Big-Thompson River project, through the roiling white water rapids of Cataract Gorge, all the way down to the Sea of Cortez where a rich delta ecosystem once nourished by the river flow has dried up.

Alexandra and her crew were guided through these stories by noted voices and experts such as Jonathan Waterman, author of Running Dry, the definitive book about the Colorado River that chronicles his journey down its flow, folksinger TR Ritchie who joined us on the river's banks at a campfire, and Brad Udall, scion of the storied western water family, whose voice is at the forefront of re-imagining our management of the Colorado River.

By the end of this chapter in our journey we had become a part of this region’s second drive West, a journey which is engaging environmental issues from a scientific perspective in close collaboration with the river’s sons and daughters to redefine how the Colorado's oversubscribed waters are managed.