Breathing Life Back Into The Dry Colorado River

Colorado RiverColorado River
Here, the Colorado River runs dry as it forms the border between the United States and Mexico for a 30 mile stretch. Once considered the greatest estuary in North America, the Colorado River Delta is predominantly sand and saline soil for its last 50 mile stretch to the Sea of Cortez.

Here, the Colorado River runs dry as it forms the border between the United States and Mexico for a 30 mile stretch. Once considered the greatest estuary in North America, the Colorado River Delta is predominantly sand and saline soil for its last 50 mile stretch to the Sea of Cortez.

A few years ago I watched a documentary called Blue Gold. It was a bit intense but it got me thinking about that one important part of our life, water. If you could never grasp the idea of how everything is connected, think about what would happen if earth no longer had water. It does not just impact us, it impacts everything. I think we’re all a small part of that one big thing. Rivers can be majestic and full of life. I hope to do more hiking and see more great areas and I understand we all have needs when it comes to water. However, why are we allowing for such an important part of our existence, like the blood is to our body, to be mis-managed to severely? So many rivers and lakes are drying up or being heavily polluted. Ever the big blue seemingly infinite ocean is overrun with pollution/plastic and extremely overused. And that use is a luxury! What is the root cause for the water challenges? Collectively as humans why are we not all looking at these things and working out solutions that are optimal for all life? Corporation pollute them, right? Why? It ties back to monetary gain and the bottom line. We over fish the oceans, why? People make a “living (money)” by getting as many fish they can everyday out of the ocean for people to eat. One river like the Colorado may be directed to several states for use and over to a dessert to grow lettuce. Most people don’t give any thought to the value we give to water or how we treat it as a resource. We think it will just be infinite. We are learning that it’s definitely not.

Since 1960, the Colorado River has not flowed regularly to the sea. Jennifer Pitt of the Environmental Defense Fund is the Colorado River Project Director working to help revitalize the river which has been overused for far too long. Water is not infinite and like anything in this world deserves to be treated with respect.

The Colorado River Basin drains a total of 243,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of France. It plummets 14,000 feet from the Rockies over the course of the river’s 1,450-mile journey from Colorado to Mexico. Amazingly it supports more than 35 million people from 8 different states – Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Mexico.

The future of the once “mighty” Colorado endured much uncertainty. Demand is greater than supply today. This is where Jennifer Pitt comes in.

The historic “pulse flow” on the Colorado River comes through the Morelos Dam on March 23. (Photograph by EDF)

The historic “pulse flow” on the Colorado River comes through the Morelos Dam on March 23. (Photograph by EDF)

For decades it seemed that there was nothing that could be done but Jennifer Pitt spent more than 15 years raising attention to the issue. Stifling her efforts were political complexities of water law and challenges with “shared cross-border resources”; however most people were unsettled by the reality that the Colorado was falling short from reaching its natural destination.

Jennifer’s persistence and effort are finally paying off. For the first time in history the US and Mexico will send water into the Colorado River Delta in the form of temporary “pulse flow” which will mimic natural spring floods. Apparently, water has never been deliberately sent below MOrelos Dam which is the last dam on the river just South of the US/Mexico border. Cooperation of nations pays off. Cooperation is such a powerful method towards achievement. There are numerous examples throughout history, such as space travel, that demonstrate the power of cooperation. Far more powerful than competition. Not only is it a victory for the Colorado but also for human achievement by working together, especially for environmental reasons. Benefiting nature IS benefiting people. We are part of nature, right?

On March 28, “the gates at Morelos Dam on the Mexico-Arizona border were opened for the first time in history for the purpose of allowing the Colorado River to flow downstream into its delta to water the plants and animals that live there.”

It is still unknown if the river will make it to the sea again but with amazing people like Jennifer Pitt leading the way and spreading the word, we feel hopeful and eager to support her anyway we can.

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