— SaveTheColoradoDelta (@CORiverDelta) May 16, 2014
Thanks to a multi-party, cross-cultural, international effort, and the audacity of a few tireless individuals to think big (including Squire Patton Boggs Partner Peter Culp (Phoenix)), the Colorado River met the tidal water of the Gulf of California for the first time in decades on May 15, 2014.
In May 2013, I wrote about Minute 319, an amendment to the 1944 treaty with Mexico that defines how the Colorado River is managed by the US and Mexico. Minute 319 included the first-ever bi-national cooperative program to provide water to the Colorado River Delta ecosystem, which would return significant amounts of water to the Delta as part of a broad experimental delivery program. The experimental delivery program – or pulse flow project – allocated approximately 158,000 acre-feet of water to the Delta for a five year period. Just a little over a year after Minute 319 was signed this program is paying dividends.
On March 23, 2014, the US and Mexico began releasing around 105,000 acre-feet of water from the managed Colorado River system into the Colorado River Delta; 53 days later the pulse met the sea. While the pulse flow may ultimately be only a small step toward restoring the ecosystems of the Colorado River Delta, it has raised hope among the locals, many of whom have never seen water flow in the riverbed, and among environmentalists, river managers, and the US and Mexican governments.