The Colorado River is one of the world’s hardest‐working and most‐loved rivers. It provides water to more than 36 million people, irrigates 5.5 million acres of farm land in seven states in the U.S. and two states in Mexico, and serves as the lifeblood for native tribes, seven National Wildlife Refuges, and 11 National Parks. It produces 4,200 megawatts of hydropower and supports a $26--‐billion tourism and recreation economy.

Flowing for more than six million years, the “American Nile's” Delta once stretched over two million acres – with vast wetlands and waterways extending from the southwestern tip of the U.S. to the Gulf of California in Mexico. The Delta was the life-giving cradle of prosperity and culture in the region.

Today, the Delta is a remnant of its former self. As The American West grew ever more demanding of its river, flows dwindled and the river dried up. Plants, animals and marine life began to disappear. Native communities that had once thrived along its banks for a thousand years began to see their traditions and culture wither away.

Over the past fifteen years, policymakers, water agencies and non-governmental organizations from the U.S. and Mexico have begun working cooperatively to create historic change for the delta.

In 2012, we hit a milestone. That’s when the U.S. and Mexican governments agreed to a set of Delta restoration provisions in a historic, binational water-sharing agreement known as Minute 319.

This innovative policy framework allowed -- for the first time -- the U.S. and Mexico to share water surpluses in times of plenty and reductions in times of drought, provided incentives for leaving water in storage, and conserved water through joint investments in projects from water users in both countries. It also laid the foundation for ongoing environmental restoration projects in the Colorado River Delta, including the limited duration pulse flow that took place in spring 2014, bringing temporary relief to the Delta and allowing the river to flow to the Sea of Cortez for the first time since 1998.

Since that time, monitoring of the pulse flow has been carried out by federal agencies, universities, and conservation organizations to determine the impacts of the pulse flow, together with subsequent and ongoing water deliveries known as base flows, on the Delta ecosystem. We have also been paying close attention to the local communities’ responses. Their feedback has been invaluable as the U.S. and Mexico considered next steps for delta restoration, as Minute 319 concludes on December 31, 2017.

Its successor agreement, Minute 323, was executed on September 27, 2017, by both governments to promote a more secure water future and scale up ongoing environmental restoration projects in the Delta. Minute 323 expands the scope of restoration beyond the main channel to embrace innovative restoration work in the Delta’s estuary and nearby wetlands.

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

With your help, we are demonstrating that hope is not lost for the Colorado River Delta Delta. Learn more about our progress and help us Raise the River.

On May 14, 2014, the Colorado River flowed all the way to the sea for the first time since 1998. It was a historic reunion that was decades overdue. And it was made possible by the pulse flow.

Set in motion by a 2012 U.S.-Mexico agreement, this “pulse flow” was designed to mimic, at a reduced scale, the kind of periodic floods that inundated the Colorado River Delta for eons, keeping the river corridor healthy by spreading seeds of native vegetation and creating conditions in which those native seedlings could thrive. Plans for the pulse flow were confirmed on January 31, 2014, when U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and her Mexican counterpart – Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) Secretary Juan Jose Guerra Abud – announced the one-time release of 105,392 acre-feet (130 million cubic meters) of water down the Colorado River into the Delta channel, where water has not flowed regularly since 1960.

Running from March 23 – May 18, 2014, the pulse flow brought much-needed relief to Delta ecosystems and communities.

Since that time, ecologists and restoration workers have been gathering valuable information on the impacts of both the pulse flow and subsequent smaller releases of water, known as base flows. The first official report was issued on October 21, 2016, by the International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC). This "Minute 319 Colorado River Limitrophe and Delta Environmental Flows Monitoring Interim Report", detailed the increase in birds, plants, and groundwater in the delta since the pulse flow, which signifies that these water flows in the Colorado River Basin are helping to restore the native environment and bring back native flora and fauna to the arid Colorado River delta.

The ongoing water flows represent a sign of hope for the people, birds, and other wildlife that depend on a healthy river. It is an unprecedented and unique initiative in the global context, that we hope will become a model for future trans-national river restoration efforts throughout the world.

Raise the River is working to bring life back to the Delta.

Restoring the Delta is a long-term project. But, we are making great strides in showing how a relatively small amount of targeted and regular water flow, combined with on-the-ground restoration activities, can revive and expand the native habitat that is so vital to the Delta’s people, birds, and wildlife. Our goal is 2300 acres of restored habitat.

Raise the River partners Sonoran Institute and Pronatura Noroeste have partnered with local communities in areas of the Delta that have the best restoration potential.

The Laguna Grande Restoration area is located in the heart of the Colorado River riparian corridor in Mexico. As of year-end 2016, over 665 acres have been restored under Sonoran Institute’s leadership, with additional acreage expected to benefit from the ongoing water flows. The goal of 795 restored acres for this site by June 2018 would make this one of the largest and most dense stands of native vegetation in the Lower Colorado River. Local residents have been employed to help with the restoration and more are being trained as nature tourism guides.

Pronatura Noroeste has worked closely with the small community of Miguel Alemán to establish a 500-acre riparian restoration site located right across the river from the Yuma’s Hunters’ Hole restoration project. Planting of 233 acres of native vegetation, with over 67,000 young trees grown by local community members, has been completed, and local residents are also employed in the restoration work. Both of these projects provide habitat for at-risk bird species, including the yellow-billed cuckoo and the Yuma clapper rail.

Between 2013 and 2017 Raise the River provided active management of restoration sites, including regular 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 (including the above two key sites). Raise the River was also an active participant in the scientific monitoring of the results of these environmental water flows.

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 U.S. 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.

Raise the River’s successful habitat restoration under Minute 319 helped lay the foundation for Minute 323. On a larger scale, this project shows how governments and stakeholders with diverse interests can come together to manage the river for people and nature in the face of drought. If it can be done across international borders, then surely we can do it in the rest of the Colorado River Basin and other places in the world.