An Update From Our CEO

The Colorado River Gives Life

Now we must give life back to the Colorado River.

The Colorado River has been a life source for centuries. As the most iconic river in the West, carving out one of the world’s Seven Great Wonders, it has a big job to do. It provides water to us, the 40 million people who live and work here; for our communities, businesses, and farms. With a rapidly growing population, declining precipitation, and increasing temperatures, the demand on the river is getting harder and harder to fulfill. As you can imagine, with all the strain, there is very little water in the desert to dedicate to its first natural purpose, water for the environment.

Laguna Grande restoration site, Colorado River Delta, Mexico. Photo: ©Bill Hatcher/Sonoran Institute, 2021

Sonoran Institute is tackling the shortage from the source to the end of the river. Through our award-winning Growing Water Smart program, we’ve collaborated with representatives of more than half of the population of Colorado to improve water management and make conserving water a priority. We’ve brought this workshop to Arizona to further this conversation in our home state, the state most adversely affected by drought and in need of serious planning to continue to grow. Our next workshops are in May and June and we’re really looking forward to learning more about the issues that city planners have around water shortages, the best use of land, and how we can help them with creative solutions.   

Among the many solutions available, Sonoran Institute and its partners have targeted effective reuse of water. On the Santa Cruz River, the introduction of reclaimed water has brought the river back to life and is opening new green areas in our communities. In Mexico, we are now expanding a wastewater treatment wetland, using nature to clean water as well as generate water for our rivers.

Santa Cruz River, March 2018. Near Camino del Cerro, Tucson, AZ. Photo: ©Bill Hatcher/Sonoran Institute, 2021

Without these conservation techniques and our ability to convene and collaborate with policy leaders on both sides of the border, there would be little to no water left to dedicate to the environment. For more than 20 years we’ve been dedicated to connecting the river to the Gulf of California. What was once a lush riparian habitat in northern Mexico was left neglected by lack of water. Because of our work with a group of organizations and governments, we’ve been able to secure agreements that promise water deliveries on a yearly basis until 2026. This will guarantee a return of bird, mammal and marine animals that haven’t been present in this area for generations. The huge impact of this small amount of water on a regular basis will also demonstrate that by bringing many hands, hearts, and heads together we can truly make a difference for the issues plaguing water in the West.

Colorado River headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.

Every time you pour water from your tap to wash your hands or dishes, imagine a flowing and resilient Colorado River.

Every time you pour water from your tap to wash your hands or dishes, imagine a flowing and resilient Colorado River. It travels from the Rockies into homes, businesses, and farms across the southwest and northern Mexico to make sure life and communities survive. But now imagine taking a few less seconds of pouring water and those drops contributing to millions of other drops and flowing downstream to restore a habitat that for generations was non-existent. We can all make a difference drop by drop.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more updates on how this once dry area at the end of the Colorado River is now a riparian paradise for all living things. 

Blog post by Mike Zellner, chief executive officer of the Sonoran Institute.

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