WATERSHED: "That area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."
- John Wesley Powell
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As Expedition Blue Planet explored the Colorado River’s headwaters, John Wesley Powell’s name came up again and again. In this short film Alexandra Cousteau, and the experts she interviewed, elaborate on the story of this remarkable man who rafted the Colorado’s uncharted waters in the late 1800s and foretold of its mismanagement long before it was tamed.
Hoover Dam is the heart of the American west’s water supply, a powerhouse for irrigation and farming in the region. But today a combination of drought and overuse have drained it half dry leaving a 135 foot high “bathtub ring” mark around Lake Mead. Will America’s largest reservoir ever fill up again as the water wars between cities, farmers and nature play out? Alexandra Cousteau’s Expedition Blue Planet investigates.
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.
“From the time I was old enough to stand in a creek I was fascinated by running water, quite frankly,” says Jim Siscoe, manager of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company (MVIC) in Cortez, Colorado. MVIC owns about $1.5 billion dollars worth of water rights in the area that revolve around the McPhee Dam on the Dolores River, a tributary of the Colorado River.
While Siscoe is a scientist by training he is a rancher at heart; he and his wife, Loretta, have just begun an organic cattle operation that has 40 head of Black Angus cattle.
One of the hottest topics in this area revolves around the
Now that we’ve finally wrapped up production in the headwater’s region of the Colorado River, we’re sorting through the rich bounty of all the stories we’ve gathered and the voices we’ve heard.
One such voice that still rings loud in our ears is that of John Echohawk, veteran Native American rights lawyer and Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) based in Boulder, Colorado.
We first met Echohawk at the NARF offices in Boulder, Colorado on Wednesday July 9th.
We asked our beloved hosts and guides in Mexico, Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta, Pronatura Noroeste's Director of the Water and Wetlands Program and his partner Yamilett Carillo Guerrero, the coordinator of Pronatura’s Sustainable Watershed’s initiative in Northwestern Mexico to write us a blog post about our exploits south of the border. Enjoy! And thanks Osvel and Yami for such an insightful and enriching visit throughout the Colorado River delta!!
This was certainly a life changing experience for us, and we hope it is for the Colorado River too.
Alexandra Cousteau, explorer, filmmaker and environmental advocate discusses water use and management of the oversubscribed Colorado River with Taylor Hawes, Director of the Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program, in this three minute film by Expedition Blue Planet. Having a healthy river is an important legacy to leave behind and for that to happen on the Colorado people must understand the river's natural cycles and truly believe that nature has a right to water too.
Jennifer Pitt, Director, Colorado River Program at the Environmental Defense Fund tells it like it is in this short film. As Pitt and Alexandra stand on the banks of the All American Canal that siphons one fifth of the Colorado River to grow crops in California, Pitt points out that we have hit the age of limits on the Colorado: Simply put, demand now outstrips supply. All those 30 million people at the tap of the Colorado River must redress their water needs if this region is to continue to grow and thrive sustainably.
In July 2010, Expedition Blue Planet explored the headwaters of the Colorado River to investigate how this mighty river is overallocated from the moment its waters touch the ground up in the Rocky Mountains, where the Continental Divide rises like a spine and demarcates the Mississippi watershed that lies to the East from the Colorado watershed that falls to the West. Today we find that this iconic river still means life for the 20 million people who live in its basin — just as it did for the Native Americans, just as it did for the settlers who drove West and claimed it as their own.