The Colorado River supplies water to more than 36 million people, irrigates four million acres of farmland, and serves as the lifeblood for native tribes, seven National Wildlife Refuges, and 11 National Parks. It produces 4,200 megawatts of hydropower and supports a $26-billion tourism and recreation economy.
But it no longer reaches the sea. We have come together to try to change that.
The Colorado River sweeps through seven U.S. and two Mexican states. It’s time to leave behind the old framework of “who gets what” and establish cooperative river management whereby countries work together to achieve desired outcomes, both for water users and for the environment.
Together, we can make restoration of the Delta a shining example of what the U.S. and Mexico can achieve when we work together.
The Colorado River is one of the world’s hardest-working and most-loved rivers. And it has been flowing for more than six million years.
The Colorado River Delta used to stretch over two million acres, with vast wetlands and waterways extending from the southwestern tip of the U.S. to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Life thrived in the region.
Today, the Delta is a remnant of its former self. As a growing population diverted the river and used increasing amounts of water over time, flows dwindled and the land dried up.
The Colorado River rarely, if ever, flows to the Gulf. Not only have plants, animals and marine life disappeared, but native people including the Cocopah and Cucapa — who have lived on the Delta for thousands of years — are now deprived of the landscape and river they used to hunt and fish.
Since the late 1990s, organizations have been working to restore the Delta with some binational government and foundational support. But until recently, they lacked the ability to acquire and manage water to restore habitat at a significant scale.
That changed in November 2012, when federal officials from the U.S. and Mexico signed Minute 319 — an historic binational agreement to guide management of the Colorado River through 2017. The agreement — an amendment to a 1944 treaty between the United States and Mexico — delivers important benefits on both sides of the border to water users and the river itself.
Significantly, the agreement allows the two nations to share Colorado River surplus water in times of plenty, and shortages in times of drought — rules that heretofore did not exist. It also lays the foundation for environmental restoration of the Delta.
Raise the River is working with government agencies in the United States and Mexico to provide 158,000 acre-feet of water for the Delta over the next several years. With this small amount of water, approximately one percent of the river’s annual flow, we hope to physically reconnect the Colorado River to the Gulf during a limited-duration “pulse flow,” while also providing water year-round to support the restoration of 2,300 acres of forest and marsh habitat along a 70-mile stretch of river.