Raise the River at CWRUA!

The Raise the River team attended the annual conference of the Colorado River Water Users Association (CWRUA) this past week (December 13-15, 2017), held in Las Vegas. With over 2,000 attendees, this is the annual gathering of this non-profit, non-partisan organization which provides a forum for exchanging ideas and perspectives on Colorado River use and management — with the intent of developing and advocating common objectives, initiatives, and solutions.

Raise the River had an informational booth in the exhibit hall — one of a very few non-profit organizations to do so — which served to grow our network and raise awareness of the work we are doing in the Colorado River Delta.

We also took this opportunity to present awards of recognition to key individuals who worked on behalf of the adoption of Minute 323 by the U.S. and Mexico governments this year. Sharing with our community photos of this presentation ceremony, below.


#GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses, and communities in all 50 states and in countries around the world. Millions of people have come together to support and champion the causes they believe in and the communities in which they live.

We hope that today, you will join us by contributing to our efforts to bring water and life back to the #Colorado River.

Raise the River sees a day when the Colorado River Delta is brought back to life, together with the renewal of community relationships and engagement that promote long-term stewardship of the river.

We are a unique partnership of United States and Mexican non-governmental organizations committed to reviving the Colorado River Delta through activities – including fundraising and outreach – that support environmental restoration for the benefit of the people and wildlife of the Delta.

Combining water deliveries with on-the-ground restoration work, our efforts, along with those of Mexico and the United States, are demonstrating the Delta’s tremendous resilience. In the areas where habitat has been restored, native vegetation is sustaining a great diversity of life and providing outdoor activity opportunities for local communities.

Won’t you join us in helping the Colorado River Delta make a comeback?

Between today and December 31, we are raising $2,017 as a year-end funding goal to help support our work in community and environmental education, and on-the-ground restoration. Every act of generosity counts, and each means even more when we give together. #GivingTuesday

Join us here, with your gift: https://www.gofundme.com/GoForTheGoal


Our friends at Carpe Diem West have included Raise the River in their 10-year highlights of water resiliency in the West. Among the seven stories of the people who are charting the course for climate resiliency and water justice in the American West, the work of  Raise the River is included, as working to bring hope back to the Colorado River Delta.

Read the full story, here:  https://spark.adobe.com/page/QRbeiNaIzaj21/

Collaboration for the Colorado River Delta

Minute 323 Agreement boosts water security for Colorado River water users, continues Delta restoration

(September 27, 2017) – Today, policymakers, water agencies, and conservation organizations from the United States and Mexico gathered to confirm the signing of Minute 323, an addendum to the 1944 Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico. The successful negotiation and signing of this agreement demonstrates the power of collaboration and cooperation between the United States and Mexico governments, and supported by the Raise the River coalition of non-profit organizations, to achieve progress on water security for Colorado River water users.

Raise the River Coalition’s public statement of support for Minute 323:

  • We applaud the leadership and vision of water managers and state and federal officials in United States and Mexico in adopting the Minute 323 Agreement to provide for a more secure water future for all Colorado River water users, and support continued restoration of the Colorado River Delta.

“This new binational water sharing agreement shows the best of what collaboration can do, improving the reliability of the Colorado River water supply for everyone who uses it”. –Jennifer Pitt, Raise the River spokesperson and Colorado River Project Director, National Audubon Society

Officially titled “Extension of Cooperative Measures and Adoption of a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan in the Colorado River Basin”, Minute 323 commits the United States and Mexico to work together to address potential Colorado River water shortages and to meet new water conservation and storage objectives. It represents the joint efforts of local, state, and the federal governments of both countries to set a course for a more secure water future for the more than 36 million people who rely on the Colorado River in the United States and Mexico.

“This is an exciting day for both countries,” said Osvel Hinojosa, Water and Wetlands Program Director at Pronatura Noroeste, a Mexican non-profit conservation organization. “Especially for those of us who have worked in the delta for decades.”

Pronatura Noroeste is a member of Raise the River – a unique partnership of six U.S. and Mexican non-governmental organizations committed to restoring the Colorado River Delta. Members include the National Audubon Society, Pronatura Noroeste, Restauremos el Colorado, A.C., Sonoran Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and the Redford Center. The coalition has worked with policymakers, water agencies, and governmental representatives from the United States and Mexico since 2012 to cooperatively create historic change for the Colorado River Delta.

The Colorado River is one of the most critical sources of water in the West, supplying water to 36 million people and 5.5 million acres of agricultural land in seven states in the U.S. and two states in Mexico. More than 17 years of drought have diminished the reliability of the Colorado River water supply, putting an enormous population and economy at risk of disruptive water shortages. Proactive investments in water conservation, paired with agreements among Colorado River water users about how to share when the water supply is limited, will create the certainty needed to ensure that the region’s economies continue to thrive.

As the Colorado River is shared by both the United States and Mexico, it is subject to various binational agreements extending back to the 1944 Water Treaty for the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande.

The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and its Mexican counterpart (CILA) are the U.S. and Mexican federal agencies that negotiate and implement binational water treaties and water allocations. In 2012, the IBWC and CILA successfully negotiated Minute 319, an agreement that helped the two countries better implement the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty (these types of supplementary treaties agreements are referred to as ‘Minutes’). The result of this extraordinary binational collaboration, Minute 319 provided multiple benefits for water users on both sides of the border. It broadly provided for the United States and Mexico to share surpluses in times of plenty and reductions in times of drought and provided for water flows for the environment. The agreement also served to recognize the Colorado River Delta as a place of ecological significance for both countries.

Minute 319 concludes on December 31, 2017. Its successor agreement, Minute 323, promotes a more secure water future while scaling up ongoing environmental restoration projects in the Delta.

Specifically, Minute 323:

    • Provides for Mexico to continue to store its water in Lake Mead, helping to keep reservoir levels high enough to avoid triggering dramatic cuts to Colorado River water users.
    • Includes an agreement between both the United States and Mexico for voluntary water cutbacks in times of droughts that further staves off triggering a shortage declaration. Should a shortage be declared, these new commitments will slow progress towards even larger water shortages.
    • Commits US water managers to invest $31.5M in water efficiency projects in Mexico that will result in savings of more than 200,000 acre-feet of water. In return, the U.S. entities will receive a one-time water exchange, and over the long term, Mexico will benefit by generating additional water from these conservation programs and improved infrastructure.
    • Obliges both the United States and Mexico to each provide water and funding for continued habitat restoration and scientific monitoring in the Colorado River Delta through 2026, with Raise the River contributing matching amounts.

“We have worked closely with the governments of Mexico and the United States to demonstrate the Colorado River Delta’s tremendous resilience,” states Hinojosa. “Through a combination of limited water deliveries and on-the-ground work to restore natural habitat, native vegetation is sustaining a great diversity of life in these sites and there has been a renewal of the community relationships and engagement that promote long-term stewardship of the river.”

Raise the River has been a leading advocate of – and active participant in – the negotiation and drafting of Minute 323 to support continued cooperative Colorado River management between Mexico and the United States.

“Minute 323 recommits the United States and Mexico in their successful partnership with NGOs to restore the Colorado River in its long-desiccated delta; this is a big win for people and for nature,” says Pitt.

Raise the River’s successful habitat restoration under Minute 319 helped lay the foundation for Minute 323. Between 2013 and 2017 Raise the River provided active management of restoration sites, including base flows – smaller, periodic releases of water – to restore over 1,000 acres of riparian habitat along the river’s main channel, where more than 230,000 native cottonwoods and willow trees were planted. Raise the River was also an active participant in the scientific monitoring of the results of these environmental water flows.

The Nature Conservancy is pleased to have worked with many partners to support passage of Minute 319 and now its successor, Minute 323. We were able to contribute critical science support to design the first “pulse flow” to benefit both people and nature and we look forward to continuing to bring our science to bear to help achieve conservation benefits. In this time of political divisiveness, formalizing the agreement today is a testament to the partnership, alliance, and long-term common goals for sustainability of the Colorado River between the United States and Mexico.” –Taylor Hawes, Colorado River Program Director, The Nature Conservancy

In addition to these restoration results, Raise the River established a water trust in Mexico that permanently acquired water rights from voluntary sellers in the Mexicali Valley to support their commitments. This was funded by raising more than $10M for restoration and water acquisition from US and Mexico foundations, corporations, federal agencies, and individuals.

Raise the River engaged over 9,800 local residents, school children, and volunteers from around the world in on-site restoration work and environmental education programs, as well as created more than 140 jobs in 2016 alone, related to completing the restoration work.

“Minute 323 represents a global model for managing shared watersheds in response to declining water supplies or long-term drought,” explains Pitt. “It also sets a standard of international cooperative management for countries working together to achieve mutually desired outcomes both for water users and for the environment.”

Raise the River’s primary goal is to bring water and life back to the Colorado River Delta, and in doing so, create a model for future trans-national river restoration efforts throughout the world. In meeting our goal, we will rebuild the habitats that support local communities and wildlife.


About Raise the River

Raise the River is a unique partnership of six United States and Mexico non-governmental organizations committed to restoring the Colorado River delta. Members include: Sonoran InstitutePronatura Noroeste, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and the Redford Center. The coalition has worked with policymakers, water agencies and governmental representatives from the U.S. and Mexico since 2012 to cooperatively create historic change for the Colorado River Delta.

Lynne Bairstow, Raise the River
(917) 573-8412, lbairstow@redfordcenter.org


Lessons Learned

In this scientific report authored by Raise the River team members, the lessons learned from the 2014 pulse flow are explored — from the resulting ecological restoration to its social impact.

Authors of the report include Raise the River coalition organization representatives and members of the Science Team providing ongoing monitoring, including:  Eloise Kendy/The Nature Conservancy, Karl W.Flessa/University of Arizona, Karen J.Schlatter/Sonoran Institute, Carlos de la Parra/Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Osvel M.Hinojosa Huertae/Pronatura Noroeste, and Yamilett K.Carrillo-Guerrero/Colorado River Delta Water Trust.

The report, Leveraging environmental flows to reform water management policy: Lessons learned from the 2014 Colorado River Delta pulse flow is available for complimentary download here.