Colorado River: Hope for the Hopeless?

When I first became director for The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River Program, quite a few folks told me I was crazy 

“The Colorado River is a lost cause,” they said.  

As I did my assessment of potential strategies and places to work, the Colorado River Delta stood out as a place that might meet this description. The dusty expanse of land located between the U.S and Mexico has rarely seen water flowing into the Gulf of California since the 1960s. 

The Colorado River Delta symbolized the very issue we face throughout the River’s vast basin – not enough water to meet local needs and sustain the river’s ecological health.  

Still, I put it on the list of places to work, because if we could address that quandary in the Delta, we could certainly address those same issues throughout the Basin.  

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Taylor Hawes
Conservancy Talk

Can the Colorado River Flow to the Sea?

Last Monday, in the village of San Luis, Mexico, hundreds of people gathered below a bridge that spans the dry channel of the Colorado River. The polka-beat of Ranchero music mixed with sound of laughter across the sandy basin. It was a party of all ages and everyone waited for the guest of honor : agua.

Located 23 miles downstream of Morelos Dam—the last dam on the Colorado—San Luis is where the river finally leaves the border behind and journeys into mainland Mexico. From here, the riverbed winds 90 miles to the Sea of Cortez. But for nearly two decades, water has rarely escaped the sealed downstream gates of the dam. Instead, Mexico’s entire Colorado River allocation turns west—diverted into a giant, concrete irrigation canal—leaving a river of sand below.

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With help, support, binational cooperation, and continued public involvement, we think it can. 

Families gather near the San Luis Rio Colorado bridge where there was no river only a week ago.

What better way to celebrate spring than an impromptu river party? And what better way to see that conservation and restoration measures affect much more than the ecosystems they seek to revitalize?

There’s an entire generation of people who are seeing their river for the first time.