National Geographic
Menu

Witnesses to History at Morelos Dam on the Colorado River

With Morelos Dam as a backdrop, dignitaries and observers gather at the official event to recognize the historic pulse flow through the Colorado River Delta.  Photo by Cheryl Zook/National Geographic
With Morelos Dam as a backdrop, dignitaries and observers gather at the official event to recognize the historic pulse flow through the Colorado River Delta. Photo by Cheryl Zook/National Geographic

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.

 

Michael Conner, Deputy Secretary of the U. S. Department of Interior, talks of the power of cooperation and ingenuity and the critical ingredient of trust. Photo by Cheryl Zook/National Geographic
Michael Conner, Deputy Secretary of the U. S. Department of Interior, talks of the power of cooperation and ingenuity and the critical ingredient of trust. Photo by Cheryl Zook/National Geographic

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.

The Colorado River below Morelos Dam nears the peak of its pulse flow. Photo by Cheryl Zook/National Geographic.
The Colorado River below Morelos Dam nears the peak of its pulse flow. Photo by Cheryl Zook/National Geographic.

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.”

 

Just after the gates opened at Morelos Dam on Sunday morning, March 23, the Colorado River seeks its channel to begin coursing through the delta. Photo by Alexandra Verville/National Geographic
Just after the gates opened at Morelos Dam on Sunday morning, March 23, the Colorado River seeks its channel to begin coursing through the delta. Photo by Alexandra Verville/National Geographic
The core conservation team that brought the pulse flow to reality celebrates with champagne after the gates open at the Morelos Dam (l to r):  Francisco Zamora with the Sonoran Institute, Yamilett Carrillo with the Colorado River Delta Water Trust, Osvel Hinojosa Huerta with Pronatura Noroeste, Peter Culp with Squires Sanders, and Jennifer Pitt (holding champagne) with Environmental Defense Fund. Photo by Alexandra Verville/National Geographic
The core conservation team that brought the pulse flow to reality celebrates with champagne after the gates open at the Morelos Dam (l to r): Francisco Zamora with the Sonoran Institute, Yamilett Carrillo with the Colorado River Delta Water Trust, Osvel Hinojosa Huerta with Pronatura Noroeste, Peter Culp with Squires Sanders, and Jennifer Pitt (holding champagne) with Environmental Defense Fund. Photo by Alexandra Verville/National Geographic

 

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.

Comments

  1. Tynan
    San Diego
    March 31, 3:15 pm

    Fantastic! I hope this continues for years to come and that there is reliable and consistent documentation to demonstrate the before-after differences. To the people that made this happen, Keep up the good work!