Water is on the Way: The travelogue completes

We continue to follow the path of the water being delivered to the Colorado River Delta. From the first irrigation gate being opened to seeing the water rejuvenate our restoration sites the water is helping to restore the river’s ecosystem and benefit people living nearby. From watching families swim in the refreshing water, reconnecting with one another and the natural world, to the birds, crabs, fish, and life find sustenance, we are reveling in tracking progress and sharing life-changing experiences.

If you missed the first parts of this series you can catch up here:
Part 1: Spring Flows are Headed to the Sea: A travelogue
Part 2: Celebrating the Water Flowing in the Delta: The travelogue continues

Birds find relief in the water of the Colorado River Delta.

June 5, 2021

Nature is unpredictable!

Our team made many predictions about when the river would make it to the sea, aiming to calculate the variables: how much water infiltrates the soil, how much evaporates, the speed the water travels, and many other factors. Today the water is getting closer, our hopes rising, and the science team set out to visit the estuary to see if the connection would happen.

Fiddler crabs are hard to miss when there are this many of them!

A few years ago, thanks to a temporary employment program, some local community members helped us dredge an old channel using machinery and working by hand. We refer to this channel as the pilot channel, designed to help connect a river lagoon with the ocean. Walking there, the team finds hundreds of fiddler crabs running around on the cracked estuary mud. They are too, waiting for the tides.

Scientists take water samples and measure the salinity. If the salinity drops below a certain level, it will mean the fresh river water is merging with the salty ocean water. However, the high tide is not high enough today, and the river water has not made it far enough. We know it is still an amazing thing to have water flowing in the Delta and the connection must be right around the corner.

Scientists taking water samples in the estuary.
Scientists in small boat in the Colorado River estuary as seen from the drone.

June 12, 2021

Day after day, the Sonoran Institute hydrology team has chased the front of the river, like a parent cheering on their kid when they are first learning to ride a bike. We want to see it reach the ocean. Surely, it’s just about to happen.

We reach the estuary, but don’t see that the river has reached the sea. Again, the trip is unsuccessful. We fly the drone to get a better view, get our cameras ready, but the river is taking it slow. You cannot hurry nature, you know?

Angela controls the drone from afar.

June 24, 2021

The dawn colors and beautiful views of sunrise bring so much peace, but, at what cost? Our team loads the gear at the office and sets out by 4:00 AM, driving an hour and a half to the upper estuary to spend the day outdoors in mind-melting summer temperatures. Much of the Colorado River Basin and North America is experiencing a heat wave and here the forecast has been over 120°F this week.

Today there is a full moon, which it means higher ocean tides. The team has arrived in the upper estuary and the tide is rolling in! the mud flats are starting to fill with chocolate colored water. The tide is rising higher and higher!

At just about 1:00 PM the tidal water of the sea reached the Colorado River water flowing in the pilot channel. The connection is finally happening, the river and the sea meet again. The emotions of the team are high—we’re feeling happy, relieved, hopeful, and grateful.

The water flows in the Colorado River finally connect to the sea!

We expect that the connection will occur at least one time every month while the water deliveries continue for the next few months.

Esta publicación de blog está disponible en español: Crónica 3: El agua está en camino: este diario de viaje está por terminar

There are three parts to this story. This is part 3.
Part 1: Spring Flows are Headed to the Sea: A travelogue
Part 2: Celebrating the Water Flowing in the Delta

Blog Post By: Gabriela González, Environmental Education and Research Coordinator and Corinne Matesich, Marketing Communications Manager