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A Sacred Reunion: The Colorado River Returns to the Sea

05/22/14 at 09:44 PM by David Leinweber

(Posted by Sandra Postel of National Geographic's Freshwater Initiative in Water Currents on May 19, 2014)

Colorado RiverAfter coursing through its delta for nearly eight weeks, the fresh waters of the Colorado River have touched the high tides of the salty sea.

 

It is the first time in sixteen years that the Colorado River, which flows 1,450 miles (2,334 kilometers) from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado  to the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) in northwestern Mexico, will have reached its final, natural destination.

 

This reunion between river and sea is due to an agreement between Mexico and the United States, known as Minute 319, to advance the restoration of the Colorado Delta by releasing a pulse flow and sustaining base flows in a five-year experiment.

The pulse flow, which began on March 23, is now nearing its end.  Scientists had not planned on the river reaching its estuary as part of this grand experiment.  But that it has, is a wonderful bonus.

 

This confluence of the river and the high tides signals that “improving estuarine conditions in this upper part of the estuary is possible if restoration efforts continue in the future,” Francisco Zamora, director of the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program at the Sonoran Institute, wrote to me in an email.  Zamora took the photos featured in this post on Thursday, May 15, from a low-flying plane operated by LightHawk.

 

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