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The formerly wondrous Colorado River delta
December 14, 2008 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Behold the Colorado River delta. Home to 400 species of plants and wildlife, it once had beaches of clams, groves of native cottonwood and megatons of shrimp and commercial fish. The wetlands now cover an estimated 5% of its former swath and glory, barely surviving invasive plant species and the massive on-line reservoir fillings of the Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams. Recommendations include restoring this desert estuary that once claimed nearly 3000 square miles. Good luck to the little Vaquita porpoise, the smallest and most endangered cetacean.
posted by Brian B. (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I haven't gone too far into the articles listed, and already I'm excited to find that there is a "Center for the Study of Dead Clams!"
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2008


I had no idea that North America was home to a freshwater dolphin in modern times.

Sad to learn about it now, as it is facing such long odds.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:05 PM on December 14, 2008


It should also be mentioned that there are other invasive plant species besides the tamarisk. Pampas grass is a major water-sucking transplant that infects the entire Colorado river system.
posted by Brian B. at 12:15 PM on December 14, 2008


I'm incredibly sad. I went to google images to see more images of the Vaquita, and it turns out that the vast majority of photos we have of them are dead ones. Seems they are so rare that the only time they are seen is when we're reducing their population a little bit more. How depressing.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:50 PM on December 14, 2008


I'm sure there are people who'd like to restore the estuary, but it's not going to happen unless they tear down Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix, and Tucson, and return the Imperial Valley to desert. Because that's where most of the water is going.
posted by Class Goat at 6:37 PM on December 14, 2008


I'm sure there are people who'd like to restore the estuary, but it's not going to happen unless they tear down Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix, and Tucson, and return the Imperial Valley to desert. Because that's where most of the water is going.

The delta was never given any water rights. Water managers could increase flows at critical times to help its restoration if it had the plan and mandate to do so. Maintaining gains from recent rain cycles would be the short-term goal, because it's shrinking again apparently.
posted by Brian B. at 6:51 PM on December 14, 2008


Water managers could increase flows at critical times to help its restoration if it had the plan and mandate to do so.

No, they can't, because that water already belongs to someone else who wants it.
posted by Class Goat at 7:17 PM on December 14, 2008


And if you're thinking that the government should seize those water rights, you need to know that water rights are property, just like any other kind of property, and according to the Fifth Amendment the US cannot take away private property without fair compensation. Those water rights are immensely valuable; the price would be huge.
posted by Class Goat at 7:22 PM on December 14, 2008


if you want to know more about how the Colorado River (and indeed most of the water rights of the American West) got to be in the shape it's in today, i urge you to read Cadillac Desert. ironically, in many respects the prose is a pretty dry read - but the real story of How The West Was Won is riveting nonetheless.
posted by the painkiller at 8:03 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


And if you're thinking that the government should seize those water rights, you need to know that water rights are property, just like any other kind of property, and according to the Fifth Amendment the US cannot take away private property without fair compensation. Those water rights are immensely valuable; the price would be huge.

Governments own those rights.

You almost made it too simple. Also at issue a U.S. promise to desalinate some waste water in Yuma and return it to the delta area. Only a third was delivered in 2003.
posted by Brian B. at 8:32 PM on December 14, 2008


No, they can't, because that water already belongs to someone else who wants it.

Tell it to the states taking more than their alloted share.
posted by Brian B. at 8:34 PM on December 14, 2008


Trickle down aquanomics.
posted by Goofyy at 4:43 AM on December 15, 2008


It's all so sad.
posted by chance at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2008


I'm sure there are people who'd like to restore the estuary, but it's not going to happen unless they tear down Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix, and Tucson, and return the Imperial Valley to desert.

I know I'm late to this party, but I'm all for this. When do we start?
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:53 AM on December 20, 2008


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