Seven southwestern states as well as Mexico are dependent on water from the Colorado River. That water is shared based on rules set out in the Colorado River Compact of 1922. Due to a 16 year-old drought in the Southwest and an expiring agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, the next president is going to have to deal immediately with the possibility of major cuts to the Colorado River water supply. People have been arguing for years about reforming the system, but the question is: how? [more inside]
On March 23, the floodgates of the Morelos Dam, near Yuma, Arizona opened, unleashing a three-day "pulse" into the dry Colorado River delta. The waters recently reached the Sea of Cortez, and a group of scientists and journalists were there to raft it. [more inside]
Last November, after five years of remarkable negotiations that unfolded far from the Delta, representatives from the U.S. and Mexico agreed to a complex, multi-part water deal that will give them desperately needed flexibility for weathering the drought. More surprisingly, the two nations will join the team of environmental organizations to release a flood of more than 105,000 acre-feet of water – 3.8 million big-rig tankers' worth – into the Delta's ancient floodplain, and chase it with a smaller, permanent annual flow to sustain the ecosystem.For High Country News, Matt Jenkins describes the most ambitious water sharing plan ever created between Mexico and the United States (single page print version). For much more about this project and the water issues surrounding it, there's Eli Rabett's roundup of John Fleck's blogposts about this. (Or read the tl;dr version by Alex Harrowell.)
It is the unlikeliest of times to pull off a deal like this. Rather than hoarding all the water for themselves in this drought –– the river supplies some 35 million people –– the West's largest water agencies have pledged to send some all the way to the sea. That move is, to some extent, a long-overdue acknowledgment that the U.S. bears responsibility for the impacts its dams have caused beyond its borders. And after years of fruitless court fights in the U.S. by environmental groups, the Mexican government finally insisted that water for the Delta be a cornerstone of the broader deal.
In 1869 John Wesley Powell lead an expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers including the first documented passage through the Grand Canyon. Now, geologist, teacher and blogger Gary Hayes writes a post a day about each day he spent on his own journey Into The Great Unknown, a rafting trip 226 miles down the Canyon that he just completed. Start here. Come for the fabulous pictures, stay for the geology, wild life both past and present. And when you're done stick around and checkout many of the other great past series on this blog (scroll down).
Durango Bill's Home Page. With topics that include: 3D end-to-end tour of the Grand Canyon, the origin and formation of the Colorado River, and examples of river systems that cut through mountain ranges instead of taking easier routes around them in Ancestral Rivers of the World. [more inside]
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.