I’ve been reading some firsthand accounts of something that happened earlier this week: On March 23, several hundred people gathered to watch as the gates of the Morelos Dam were opened for the first time in five decades, to allow a “pulse flow” of water to flow through the last 70 miles of the Colorado River, before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. As part of a landmark agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, the Colorado River Delta will once again have water coursing through its dried-up channels, which will extend to the lower delta and go all the way to the sea. With the exception of a couple of isolated “El Niño” rainstorms during the 1980’s and 90’s, this will be the first time that water from the Colorado has reached the sea since 1960. This is all made possible by Minute 319, an amendment of a 1944 treaty between U.S. and Mexico, that concerns their shared responsibility for the Colorado River. Scientists and officials of the two cooperating governments hope that the water will help efforts to restore the Delta and revitalize an ecosystem that once included native willows and cottonwoods, and teemed with insects, birds, and fish. The pulse flow, which will continue through May 18, will mimic the natural yearly flood from snow melt in the Rocky Mountains that used to take place before the Colorado River was dammed up and diverted to support the growth of arid desert communities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and Denver.
Jennifer Pitt of Environmental Defense Fund, posted on the Water Currents webpage about her experience as a witness to this historic first. She has been following the flow and marking how long it takes for the river to move downstream. The pictures on this webpage are glorious.
Minute 319 has been hailed by countries in Asia and Europe as a model for binational cooperation over shared rivers as well as policies that promote practical adaptation to climate change.