Your commitment restores one of America’s most endangered rivers

Colorado River Delta

 

National Fish and Wildlife FoundationLOCATION: San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico
START UP DATE: May 2013
PROJECT RESULT: 39 million gallons per year into wetland areas and base flows for the Colorado River
PROJECT PARTNERS: Pronatura Noroeste, Colorado River Delta Trust and National Geographic
VERIFICATION: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
PROJECT TYPE: Leasing and Permanent Transfers

 

One of North America’s most unique and productive ecosystems, the Colorado River Delta, once provided millions of acres of freshwater, wetland, tidal and brackish habitat supporting hundreds of fish and wildlife species. This dynamic and diverse ecosystem supported indigenous human populations for thousands of years, and today it still provides critical habitat for over 350 species of birds.

However, because historical treaties between U.S. states and Mexico allocated no water to sustain the river ecosystem, the Delta has been desiccated and decimated, with its once extensive wetlands now covering only a tiny fraction (~5%) of their historical 2 million acres. In fact, in most years the mighty Colorado River no longer even flows to the sea.

In 2012, a historic water sharing agreement was reached between the U.S and Mexico that paves the way for restoring flows to the lower Colorado River and its delta. Through this agreement, there is now the opportunity to restore water to the desiccated lower Colorado River Delta with the promise of restored flows someday supporting thousands of acres of wetland and river habitat, enhancing the rich estuary near the mouth of the river and reconnecting the river with the sea.

The new agreement provides a landmark opportunity for restoration of the Delta ecosystem. BEF, working with Pronatura Noroeste, the Colorado River Delta Water Trust and National Geographic, has supported an initial WRC pilot project that will restore approximately 39 million gallons per year to help revitalize critically dewatered areas of the Delta. In the first few years of the project, this water will be used to restore native vegetation and habitat in wetland and riparian areas—and within the next several years this water will be used to support some of the first ever flows intended to reconnect the Colorado River to the sea.

Many more investments from myriad other funders and partner organizations will be needed to achieve the long-term flow restoration goals in the Delta. However, BEF and our partners in this project are incredibly proud to play an early and critical role in restoring water to this once great ecosystem. Restoring flow now to the Delta is a critical first step, and as we succeed in enlisting support from additional businesses and corporations through BEF’s Water Restoration Certificate® program, we expect to make additional investments in restoring Colorado River flows through the Delta.

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In 2014, thanks to several organizations and government entities in the U.S. and Mexico, pulse flows from the Colorado River reached the Sea of Cortez for the first time in decades. Base flow restoration—in part supported by BEF’s WRC project above and the commitment of our sponsors and partners—played an important role in this historical event. Below are a handful of stories and videos produced by our partners at National Geographic depicting this momentous event.

 

Landscape TransformsLandscape Transforms with the Arrival of the Colorado River: Before and After Photo Gallery

04/15/14—By National Geographic

It’s a rare event to see a river literally form before your eyes. But each day that we ventured out to find the leading edge of the Colorado River as it advanced through its delta during this historic “pulse flow,” we were treated to exactly that phenomenon: a dry, sandy channel that hasn’t seen water in 16 years suddenly became a rivulet, then a stream, then a glorious flowing river.

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Monitoring the PulseMonitoring the Pulse of the Colorado River

04/15/14—By National Geographic

Now in its 14th day, the historic pulse flow coursing through the Colorado River Delta toward the sea is under the careful watch of dozens of scientists who fan out across the landscape to measure and track its vital signs – from flow rates and salinity levels to seed dispersal by native cottonwoods and willows.

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Community Reconnects with its RiverCommunity Connects to RiverA Colorado Delta Community Reconnects with its River

03/28/14—By National Geographic

On Tuesday afternoon, March 25, 2014, word got out that the river was coming. Kids, parents, dogs and teenagers began gathering at the bridge in San Luis Rio Colorado, a border town of about 160,000 people. Young people had never seen the river that gives this town its name flow beneath the bridge.

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