American and Mexican scientists teamed up to create an engineered spring flood to allow the Colorado River to flow into Mexico again for the first time in six decades.
The Colorado River is the main river of the Southwestern United States, encompassing seven states. Famous for carving the Grand Canyon and for having intense whitewater rapids, the river is also a major source of water for agricultural and urban areas. While historically the river flowed into Mexico, numerous dams built over the last six decades have caused a massive rerouting and drying of the Colorado River delta.
Officials from the International Boundary Water Commission authorized the release of water from Lake Mead towards the delta. The manmade flood released on March 23 was a result of Minute 319, a 2012 agreement between the U.S. and Mexico as an amendment to their 1944 Water Treaty. It aimed primarily to resurrect the dried delta, but will also be used as a basis for the implementation of a five-year program that will extend the water flow to more areas.
Farmer Juan Butron Mendez, 63, recalls his childhood memories of the river’s rapid current. When his family returned to the area in the 1960s, there was barely any flow. The elders of the indigenous Cupacapa group—Cupacapa translating to “people of the river”—remember the river being deep and wide enough to carry boats. Now they can barely catch fish good for eating.
— New Scientist (@newscientist) March 23, 2014
The flood is expected to provide habitat for various species of wildlife, including endangered birds. It will also benefit trees like cottonwood and willow, which have been dying off in the past few decades because of the lack of floodwater to carry their seeds.
The engineered flood is still a far cry from the natural current that used to flow into the Colorado River delta. Officials concede that it cannot be restored to how it was a hundred years ago.
Bringing Back the Colorado River
Image via Wikimedia Commons