Water pulses across U.S.-Mexico border through historic cooperation
“Pulse flow” sets new precedent for water-sharing agreements in the Colorado River Basin and beyond
(March 27, 2014) – Today, policymakers, water agencies, and conservation organizations from the United States and Mexico are gathered at Morelos Dam, which straddles the U.S.–Mexico border, to witness the Colorado River “pulse flow,” and to celebrate the culmination of years of negotiations to restore the Colorado River Delta.
The pulse flow — a temporary release of water designed to mimic the river’s natural spring floods — began on Sunday, March 23, when the gates at Morelos Dam were opened to begin releasing 105,392 acre-feet of water — approximately 0.7% of annual Colorado River flows — downstream into the long depleted Colorado River Delta. The pulse flow is expected to peak at its highest flow rate today through March 30, and is expected to last nearly eight weeks total, bringing much needed relief to the habitats and communities in the delta region.
“This is a very exciting day for both countries,” said Osvel Hinojosa, Water and Wetlands Program Director at Pronatura Noroeste, a Mexican non-profit conservation organization. “Especially for those of us who have worked in the delta for decades, waiting and preparing for this moment.”
Pronatura Noroeste is a member of Raise the River — a coalition of conservation organizations working to protect and restore the Colorado River Delta. Other participating organizations include Environmental Defense Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Redford Center and Sonoran Institute.
“We have worked hand-in-hand with our partners over the years to achieve the best results possible for the delta,” said Francisco Zamora Arroyo, director of the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program at Sonoran Institute. “We are working together to monitor the pulse flow to determine its impacts on the delta and to inform future efforts to stimulate river health.”
The pulse flow is just one component of a multi-faceted policy agreement formally known as Minute 319 — negotiated between the U.S. and Mexico in 2012 to provide multiple benefits for water users on both sides of the border. In addition to the pulse flow, this policy framework more broadly allows the U.S. and Mexico to share surpluses in times of plenty and reductions in times of drought, provides incentives for leaving water in storage, and conserves water through joint investments in projects from water users in both countries.
“Today we are witnessing what appears to be a paradigm shift in the way we manage water,” said Jennifer Pitt, Colorado River Project Director at Environmental Defense Fund. “Historically in the West, everyone has approached water with an ‘us against them’ mentality. Now we’re talking about how we can share water, conserve water, and invest in new water projects and the health of the river itself. It’s truly refreshing.”
“The pulse flow is a sign of good things to come,” said Taylor Hawes, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River Program. “By minimizing the impacts of drought on any one user, providing incentives for leaving water in storage, and including the environment’s needs in the equation, the U.S. and Mexico are setting a new precedent for water-sharing agreements in the Colorado River Basin and beyond.”
“Our hope is that people all across the Basin will look back at this event and see it as one of the great steps forward in ensuring a healthy Colorado River and Delta far into the future,” said James Redford of the Redford Center. “It’s truly remarkable what governments, communities and NGO’s can accomplish when we work together.”
In addition to the eight-week pulse flow, some 52,696 acre-feet of “base flow” will also be delivered over the next four years to support key restoration sites in the river’s riparian corridor, thanks to NGO commitments under Minute 319. The NGO coalition launched a “Raise the River” campaign to raise funds for habitat restoration projects as well as the Colorado River Delta Water Trust, which acquires base flows through the purchase and lease of water rights from willing sellers throughout the Mexicali Valley.
“The base flows acquired by the Trust will help to nourish and maintain any new growth that appears this spring as a result of the pulse flow and other on-the-ground restoration investments,” said David Yardas, director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Southwest and Interior Water Programs. “The delta ecosystem’s response should demonstrate the incredible value of these companion restoration strategies, and the importance of bringing water back to the delta over the long term.”
Robert Redford, Will Ferrell and Kelly Slater Feud Over Best Solution for Restoring Colorado River Delta
Dueling videos debuting on Funny or Die shed light on a campaign to breathe life back into the parched Colorado River Delta
(March 13, 2014) San Francisco, CA – Actors Robert Redford and Will Ferrell, along with Professional Surfer Kelly Slater, are lending their creativity and talent to support Raise the River, a campaign designed to help breathe life back into the Colorado River Delta.
The campaign aims to raise $10 million by 2017 to restore a 70-mile stretch of river and wetland habitat and to benefit the communities of the long-neglected Delta.
Raise the River, working with like-minded partners in the United States and Mexico, is giving the public an opportunity to be part of restoring the Colorado River as the life force of the American West.
“The Colorado River is an American treasure, one of our great icons, but we’ve overused it. It hasn’t regularly flowed to its natural end since the ‘60s,” says Mr. Redford. “The good news is that there’s a solution within our grasp. Both the U.S. and Mexican governments are involved in the effort and with a collective public commitment, we can implement the restoration plan and win this campaign.”
As part of the marketing initiative behind the campaign, the Redford Center and Sausalito-based BSSP created a number of short video spots featuring Mr. Redford, Mr. Ferrell and Mr. Slater to bring awareness to the importance and opportunity of restoring the river’s delta. The videos are part of a larger marketing push that includes an integrated social media initiative launching on March 13 on FunnyorDie.com and then premiering in an exclusive broadcast on Participant Media’s Pivot TV on March 22, World Water Day.
In the videos, Mr. Redford and Mr. Ferrell debate whether it’s best to restore the wetlands and the flows for the populations in the Delta region or, alternatively, move the ocean inland “a few hundred miles” to create more coastline for American surfers, which prompts a cameo from Mr. Slater.
“As someone who has spent my entire life in and near the ocean, I know how important it is to protect its health and purity,” said Mr. Slater. “Part of that is making sure that our rivers and streams are healthy, too. The Colorado River belongs to all of us, and I’m excited to help get the word out about this great cause.”
Through humorous banter, Redford and Ferrell, bring awareness to the urgency and importance of the issue. Both actors ask viewers to donate via the RaiseTheRiver.org website or the MoveTheOcean.org website, which features a hilarious “5 point plan.” Each website will promote donations that ultimately contribute to Raise the River’s $10 million goal. Donations from members of the public will help recreate lost habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife, as well as breathe life back into the communities along the riverbank.
Meeting this target will ensure the non-governmental community fulfills its commitment to the historic, binational, water-sharing agreement known as Minute 319, which was signed by the US and Mexico in November 2012 and expires in 2017. The agreement delivers important benefits on both sides of the border to water users and the river itself.
Raise the River will match each country’s commitment to provide water for the Delta, and will use water acquired through the Colorado River Delta Water Trust to implement habitat restoration on a larger scale.
The six-million-year-old Colorado River is one of the hardest-working rivers on the planet. It supplies water to 40 million people, irrigates four million acres of farmland, and serves as the lifeblood of native tribes, seven National Wildlife Refuges and 11 National Parks. It generates an annual $26 billion recreation economy and employs a quarter of a million Americans. Due to prolonged drought, diversions and dams across the river, and increased water demand from the seven U.S. states through which it flows, the Colorado River dries 70 miles before reaching its delta plain in the Gulf of California.
Currently, the Raise the River campaign is 75 percent funded, thanks in part to a generous grant from Keurig Green Mountain to support water rights acquisition and on-the-ground restoration. The coalition behind the campaign is now appealing to the public to help propel the campaign across the finish line.