Colorado River, USA: Today the California Coastkeeper Alliance and Save The Colorado released a resolution in support of transferring part of California’s allotment of Colorado River water for the restoration of the Colorado River Delta where the river no longer meets the Gulf of California.
The resolution (posted here) is supported by all 12 of California’s Waterkeeper organizations, which represent tens of thousands of members along the coast from the top to the bottom of the state, including those in Southern California – San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County – that directly receive Colorado River water.
“California has taken, taken, taken from the Colorado River, and it’s time for us to give a little bit back,” said Sara Aminzadeh, executive director of the California Coastkeeper Alliance. “The Colorado and other Western river systems have suffered mightily during this drought: dry river beds, stranded and dying fish, and recreational outfitters and other businesses fighting for survival. I hope the impacts we’ve been witness to serve as an impetus for changing the way we think about and use water.”
The Colorado River begins in Colorado and Wyoming and drains the entire Southwest U.S., but 91 percent of the river’s flow is diverted before it reaches the border with Mexico, with nearly 30 percent of the entire flow diverted by the State of California which is overseen and administered by the “Colorado River Board of California.“
Paradoxically, even though the river is drained completely dry – all 5 trillion gallons drained out every single year – and California gets more water than any other state, the mission of the Colorado River Board of California includes “maintaining or increasing” California’s share of the river. Coastkeeper Alliance and other groups are calling on the State Water Board to change laws and policies that perpetuate this environmentally destructive and unsustainable practice. For example, in the emergency drought regulations currently pending before the State Water Board, Coastkeeper Alliance has requested that the State Water Board require that water suppliers reduce imports from the Colorado River and other impaired systems before qualifying for adjustments to the emergency drought regulations.
“Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,'” said Gary Wockner, executive director of the Save The Colorado River Campaign. “The Colorado River is drained bone dry and California has a great opportunity to restore a piece of this amazing river system that has given its entire life to make Southern California inhabitable.”
In 2014, the United States and Mexico reached an agreement to do a “pulse flow” which sent a small amount of water in one 6-week pulse back to the Colorado River Delta and the Gulf of California. The agreement and release of water made international news as it temporarily restored a sliver of the river system in the Delta. Over 2 million acres of wetlands – which used to be the biggest migratory bird sanctuary in the Southwest – has been drained bone dry over the last 50 years. The U.S. and Mexico are currently discussing a new agreement to do another pulse flow as well as a “base flow” to keep the river flowing all year.
The resolution supports, “Transferring enough of California’s allotment of Colorado River water back to the Colorado River Delta for the Colorado River to meet the Gulf of California on a continual basis and provide occasional pulse flows to rejuvenate the ecosystem through the river corridor.”
About Save The Colorado: The mission of Save The Colorado is to protect and restore the Colorado River and its tributaries from the source to the sea. Save The Colorado focuses on fighting irresponsible water projects, supporting alternatives to dams and diversions, fighting and adapting to climate change, supporting river and fish species restoration, and removing deadbeat dams. Save The Colorado has thousands of supporters throughout the Southwest U.S. from Denver to Los Angeles and beyond. More information: SaveTheColorado.org
About California Coastkeeper Alliance: California Coastkeeper Alliance unites 12 local Waterkeeper programs to fight for swimmanble fishable and drinkable waters for California communities and ecosystems. With a tool belt filled with law, policy, science and creative media, CCKA is an experienced advocate that advances statewide policies and programs for healthy and clean waters. More information: CACoastkeeper.org