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Posts Tagged ‘Colorado River’

BY LISA OWENS VIANI

A cool map for a warming watershed arrives at the right moment.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

As the western United States continues to wither in an extended drought, the Colorado River’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, have fallen to their lowest levels since they were first filled—Lake Mead in 1935 and Lake Powell in 1963—according to John Fleck, a professor of practice in water policy and governance in the Department of Economics and director of the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Against this parched backdrop, the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy has published a timely new map of the Colorado River watershed that illuminates the complicated issues facing basin managers now and in the future as water becomes an ever more scarce and precious commodity in the West.

Produced in partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s newly launched Center for Geospatial Solutions, the peer-reviewed map, which includes photographs and extensive narrative, tells the story of the river’s complicated legal and political history and challenges. (more…)

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By KEVAN WILLIAMS

2013 aerial view of Morelos Dam in the Colorado River with Mexico in the background. Photo:  Bureau of Reclamation

A 2013 aerial view of the Morelos Dam on the Colorado River. Mexico is in the background. Photo: Bureau of Reclamation.

The once expansive and vibrant Colorado River Delta has been dry for a long time. Most of the river’s water is currently captured and siphoned off at numerous upstream dams, leaving empty riverbeds and dry land where once there was a vast estuary. But as part of an agreement between the United States and Mexico known as “Minute 319,” a spring pulse flow has returned the dry Lower Colorado River to life, at least temporarily. The pulse flow is an artificial release of water from upstream dams, designed to mimic the sustained high flows of a snow melt or significant rainfall. More than 100,000 acre-feet of water is now moving down the old river channel, making steady progress toward the sea.

Although occasional high flows have washed down the river, for many decades it’s been largely dry, with devastating ecological consequences. Invasive plants such as tamarisk (also known as salt cedar) have been creeping into the region, taking advantage of changing conditions, and native species have struggled to hold on.

(more…)

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