Colorado River Delta Restoration

Colorado River Delta Restoration

Update November 2012

The US and Mexican government have approved an addition to the water treaty that governs water flow across the US border to Mexico. Thie minute will enable water allocated to Mexico to be stored in the US until it is needed and more importantly will enable the allocation of water for  restoration of the Colorado River Delta. This is very exciting news for the Restoration effort and all the communities along the river.

Colorado River Delta Project

The greatest desert river in the Western Hemisphere, the Colorado River has often been called “the nile” of North America. Arising along the continental divide in the Rocky Mountains, the colorado gives life to diverse plant, animal, and human populations as it meanders through the western United States and Mexico toward its final coalescence with the sea.

The colorado once delivered its entire annual discharge of approxi- mately 14 million acre-feet of fresh water to the upper Gulf of califor- nia, creating one of the largest and most productive estuaries in the world. the Delta then was an immense patchwork of roughly two million acres of riparian, freshwater, and tidal wetlands, supporting incredibly diverse and bountiful populations of bird, plant, and marine life. it also provided cultural and economic value to the indigenous people, fishermen, and local populations.

Over the last century, the Colorado has been asked to do much more. Since 1905, more than 100 dams have been constructed on the river and its tributaries, diverting flows to serve the agricultural, industrial, and municipal needs in the arid West. the colorado River today pro- vides water to 30 million people across seven U.S. states and two Mex- ican states. the cities of Denver, Salt lake city, Albuquerque, las Vegas, phoenix, tucson, los Angeles, San Diego, and Mexicali all rely on the river for survival and growth. in regions such as california’s im- perial Valley, where annual crop production is over $1 billion and annual rainfall less than three inches, agriculture would not be possible without irrigation supplied from the Colorado River.

Today, due to dams and diversions upstream, the Colorado River no longer reaches the sea, and the Delta is less than 10% of its original size. the lack of water has greatly stressed the Delta’s riparian and estuarine areas and the wildlife that depends on them.

Yet, the resiliency of this endangered ecosystem offers great reason for hope. it has been shown that even modest flows of fresh and brackish water can lead to immense accomplishments in the Delta. this potential for ecological recovery spurred the sonoran institute and our partners in Mexico and the U.s. to set an ambitious goal to double the delta’s existing wetlands and ultimately reconnect the river to the sea.

We have been working with the Sonoran Institute and Pro Natura since 2010 to help find a way to restore the Delta water flows. Our work there can be summed up in a short film we made in 2011. It is shown below. We also produced a longer feature length film for national distribution as part of a larger media effort to support the Restoration Program.

For more information on the Colorado River Delta Restoration, click here for this website.


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