April 1, 2001
Environmental and community groups from the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico called for the restoration of the Colorado River’s delta in a series of events last month, culminating in the Fourth International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life.
Led by Moab, Utah-based Glen Canyon Action Network and Living Rivers of Phoenix, Arizona, the “Sustainable Water Project Tour” sought “donations” of Colorado River water to restore flows to the depleted Colorado River delta just south of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It took millions of years to form the vast delta region of the Rio Colorado, but it took only 50 years to destroy,” said Ernesto Reynoso of the Centro Regional de Estudios Ambientales y Socioeconomicos, based in Mexicali, Mexico.
The groups drove an empty water tanker truck, symbolizing the lack of water in the delta, to rallies in Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Blythe (Calif.) and Los Angeles.
A letter was sent to water users seeking voluntary contributions of one percent of their currently used Colorado River water allocations. The rallies provided water users with an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and responsibility for repairing the damage caused by diversions so extensive that the river no longer reaches the ocean.
“This is the first broad-based organizing effort among the basin’s environmental and social justice communities (to bring attention to) the need to transform this vast plumbing system back to an ecosystem,” said John Weisheit, president of GCAN.
The Colorado River basin is home to more than 40 dams and diversions and functions more as a system of regulated canals and reservoirs than a river, said GCAN. One of the Colorado’s major tributaries, the Gila River, typically runs dry for approximately 150 miles in Arizona because of the re-engineering, said the group.
The U.S. and Mexican governments recently agreed to explore legal and technical means of assuring restorative flows to the delta. “It’s time for the water agencies to take responsibility for their practices,” said Lisa Force of Living Rivers. “We hope they will agree to work with us to find long-term solutions that will meet both human and ecological needs.”
For more information, check out the GCAN Web site.