Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UA Scientists Lead Effort to Evaluate Unprecedented Environmental Flow to Colorado Delta


University of Arizona scientists Karl Flessa and Ed Glenn and a binational team of scientists will monitor the effects of an engineered spring flood to bring water to the parched Colorado River delta.

The pulse flow of water into the dry lower reaches of the Colorado River began Sunday. 

“This allocation of environmental water to the Colorado River Delta in Mexico is unprecedented,” said Flessa, UA professor of geosciences and co-chief scientist of the monitoring effort. “We need to learn how to actively manage habitats at this scale. The scientific monitoring of the pulse flow and its aftermath will help us do so.” 

Upstream dams and water diversions for farms and cities in both countries have dried up most of the river south of the border. With the exception of a few wet years, the river has not reached the Gulf of California since 1960.

... more about:
»Arizona »Colorado »Delta »Environmental »Flow »Pronatura »spring

The U.S. and Mexico will release about 105,000 acre-feet of water, approximately 0.7 percent of the river’s annual flow, into the delta below Morelos Dam, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border just west of Yuma. An acre-foot of water is 325,900 gallons.

“We’re trying to simulate a spring flood, even though the amount of water is small compared to the natural spring floods of the era before the dams, when the river regularly flowed over its banks and formed extensive wetlands and forests of cottonwoods,” Flessa said.

This engineered spring flood is one outcome of Minute 319, a 2012 addition to the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty. 

The agreement is a framework for cooperation that provides multiple benefits for Colorado River water users in both countries, including environmental flows to the delta. Minute 319 identifies criteria for sharing of future water shortages and surpluses between the two countries, allows storage of Mexican water in Lake Mead and funds improvements to Mexican irrigation infrastructure.

The five-year program to monitor the environmental results of the pulse flow is being supported by government agencies and environmental groups in both countries, under the auspices of the International Boundary and Water Commission.

The monitoring team includes scientists from the UA, the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, The Nature Conservancy, the Tucson-based Sonoran Institute and the Ensenada-based Pronatura Noroeste.

“The pulse flow is a vital part of our ongoing restoration efforts. We know that relatively small amounts of water can make a big difference in the health of the delta region,” said Francisco Zamora Arroyo, director of the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program at the Sonoran Institute.

Ed Glenn, UA professor emeritus of soil, water and environmental science, is leading the vegetation and remote-sensing teams. The pulse flow is designed to stimulate the growth of the delta’s natural vegetation by dispersing native seeds and fostering their growth by raising the water table in the vicinity of the river’s now-dry channel. 

New growth will create the habitats that support wildlife. Close to 380 bird species are expected to benefit from this return of water to the delta, said  UA alumnus Osvel Hinojosa, the water and wetlands program director at Pronatura Noroeste.

“We’re all energized by such big science that could have such a big outcome for restoration on the delta and in dryland rivers elsewhere," Flessa said. "Ed Glenn and I have been working on the delta for more than 20 years and this is a dream come true. People told us this would never happen – and here it is.”

The UA and its partners in the Colorado River Minute 319 Binational Partnership received a U.S. Department of Interior 2013 Partners in Conservation Award in January. Glenn accepted the award on behalf of the UA. 

# # #

Media Contact 

Mari N. Jensen


Researcher Contact

Karl Flessa


Daniel Stolte | University of Arizona
Further information:

Further reports about: Arizona Colorado Delta Environmental Flow Pronatura spring

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Earth's magnetic field is not about to flip
25.11.2015 | The Earth Institute at Columbia University

nachricht Autumn gales again drive salt into the Baltic: Third Major Baltic Inflow within 1.5 years.
25.11.2015 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

Im Focus: Climate Change: Warm water is mixing up life in the Arctic

AWI researchers’ unique 15-year observation series reveals how sensitive marine ecosystems in polar regions are to change

The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North. This is indicated by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Harnessing a peptide holds promise for increasing crop yields without more fertilizer

25.11.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Earth's magnetic field is not about to flip

25.11.2015 | Earth Sciences

Tracking down the 'missing' carbon from the Martian atmosphere

25.11.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>