The Colorado River and Gulf of California met again for the first time in 16 years, thanks to hard work of scientists with the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program of the Sonoran Institute.
The Colorado River reached out to the Gulf of California last week for the first time in 16 years thanks to a pilot channel, ‘pulse flow’ and high-tide breach of the ocean.
The river received help from the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program of the Sonoran Institute. First, members of the organization dug a pilot channel to connect the two sources of water. Then on March 23 a ‘pulse flow’ was initiated to encourage the two waters to reunite. The director of the program, Francisco Zamora, said, “After waiting for two months, it was very exciting to see.”
Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project, said “The pulse flow is about mimicking the way the Colorado River flowed in the springtime, thanks to snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains, before all the dams were built.” According to Zamora, the waters have barely been in contact in the past 50 years. Many scientists attribute this to man-made structures like dams which siphon the water for human usage.
The drain-off caused by humans affected what used to be a fertile area for many plants and animals native to this area of northwest Mexico. The Colorado River and Gulf of California once formed an estuary where vegetation thrived, attracting aquatic species such as Gulf Corvina, totoaba and brown and blue shrimp. The aquatic animals are then a magnet to a wealth of birds that use the estuaries as food sources and breeding grounds.
Ecologists pushed to get the two waters connected to bring back the wildlife in that area, which like most habitats will play their own role in sustaining life globally. An agreement, called Minute 319, was finally struck up between Mexico and the United States to work on restoring this area.
“I do believe that it has demonstrated that with a small amount of water we can restore new habitat, new wetlands,” Zamora said. “And it has also allowed the governments of the U.S. and Mexico to see that working together, we can make a difference.”