A dozen dignitaries faced a crowd of more than two hundred gathered yesterday at Morelos Dam in the Mexican city of Los Algodones, Baja California, to proclaim the release of a “pulse flow” of Colorado River water to its dry delta a momentous occasion for both the river and binational relations. (See “Historic Pulse Flow Brings Water to Parched Colorado River Delta.”)
With the dam as a backdrop, one after another heralded the agreement known as Minute 319 as a landmark for the users of the Colorado River, the two nations that share its flow, as well as for the river itself, which hasn’t regularly seen its delta or reached the sea for half a century.
“We are witnesses to history,” proclaimed Michael Conner, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior.
Bart Fisher, a third generation farmer from California’s Palo Verde Valley, spoke on behalf of the seven U.S. Colorado River Basin states and noted the important relationship between water users and the environmental community in making the pulse flow and Minute 319 possible.
Mexico’s National Water Commission noted in its statement that Minute 319 has already been recognized by countries in Asia and Europe as a model to follow for binational cooperation over shared rivers as well as for adapting to climate change.
As the officials spoke, the Colorado River below was nearing the peak of its pulse flow, which began on March 23 and continues until May 18.
Conner lauded the “extraordinary work of the NGO community on both sides of the border” for their role in making this historic event possible. Just a few years ago, experts would have said this landmark achievement was impossible, Conner said.
“The most important ingredient is trust,” Conner said. “Today is about validating that trust.”
Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project, Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and author of several books and numerous articles on global water issues. She is co-creator of Change the Course, the national freshwater conservation and restoration campaign being piloted in the Colorado River Basin.