On a sunny March morning in 2014, dam operators lifted a gate on the Morelos Dam on the Colorado River, at the U.S.-Mexico border. Water gushed toward the river’s dry delta at the Gulf of California. This “pulse flow” coursed downstream for several weeks, nourishing cottonwood and willow saplings and boosting bird and other wildlife populations.
Though most of the water soaked through the parched riverbed to aquifers below, enough remained aboveground to allow the river to meet the gulf for the first time since the late 1990s. That reminded people throughout the basin of the Colorado’s importance — and how humans have altered it.
The 2012 international agreement that made the flow possible and addressed other river-management issues expires at the end of 2017. Officials, however, are expected to sign a new pact in the coming weeks. That deal, called “Minute 323,” will extend and expand the previous agreement — and reduce the risk of a catastrophic water shortage that could leave fields and faucets dry.
The Colorado River winds 1,450 miles through the U.S. and Mexico. It’s a […]