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Death of a River: The Colorado River Delta

What happens when a river doesn't reach the sea?

In August of 2010, Alexandra Cousteau's Expedition Blue Planet crossed over the Arizona/Mexican border to follow the Colorado's dry riverbed to its historic mouth in the Upper Gulf of California where its nutrient-rich waters no longer reach the sea. This short film tracks the ghost of a mighty river that used to run free over this land half a century ago.

The stately Colorado, that same iconic river of history that carved out the Grand Canyon and made the deserts bloom in the American southwest now ends in hypersaline mudflat rather than a punctuation mark of aquatic biodiversity. The Colorado's once-lush estuary is no longer a nursery for marine life. The people whose lives were intertwined with the river's wealth in its flood plain are now culturally bereft.

Alexandra Cousteau experiences something she always knew in the abstract: rivers must reach the sea or else we are all impoverished.