Minute 323 – Lower Colorado River

Lower Col R

The highly publicized “pulse flow” in 2014 was the first time the Colorado River met the sea since 1997. This pulse was the result of negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico to address the drying of the river from overuse and climate change. 5000 acres of dry floodplain finally saw water as the pulse flooded over 70 miles of dry riverbed to meet the ocean again, meeting with rousing social and environmental success as people celebrated the return of water to the desiccated land, riparian vegetation sprouted and grew, and birds such as the yellow-billed cuckoo returned to habitat long since dried and abandoned.

That was Minute 319; a new chapter in the story of the U.S.-Mexico treaty to address water conservation along the Colorado River is Minute 323, which sets aside 210,000 acre feet of water for environmental purposes. Under this new agreement (in which the Audubon Society was an active participant), a series of smaller pulses will attempt to keep enough water and moisture in the delta to retain these conservation successes, and habitat restoration efforts by Audubon and its partners in the Raise the River conservation coalition will attempt to further restore the prime riparian habitat in the delta.

Colorado R Delta

Lower Colorado River “Delta”

For Arizona’s human residents, this international water conservation agreement provides a respite from the hovering threat of a declaration of water shortage (and the social and economic consequences thereof) declared by the Interior Department if Lake Mead reaches the low water mark—and it’s close. For Arizona birds and birders, this means an extension of quality riparian habitat in the arid desert southwest and the improvement of a key migratory pathway, which could result in an expansion of the bird populations (like the yellow-billed cuckoo) that depend on that habitat, and increase in the number of birds moving through our state, providing us with a greater opportunity to observe and appreciate them

Link to Audubon’s article: http://www.audubon.org/news/update-us-mexico-water-treaty-huge-win-conservation?ms=policy-eng-email-ea-wran-20171024_wran_newsletter&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20171024_wran_newsletter