/ Modified dec 18, 2014 7:41 a.m.

Colorado River Delta 'Pulse Flow' Shows Signs of Success

Water release at Yuma dam enhances vegetation, opens waterway to Sea of Cortez for first time in half-century.

CO River Delta SPOT 2 Aerial view of water making its way into the parched Colorado River delta.
Vanessa Barchfield, AZPM

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A pilot project to send water down the parched Colorado River delta has already shown signs of success, scientists said Wednesday.

The flood gates of the Morelos Dam outside Yuma were opened for two months earlier this year in what scientists called a "pulse flow" to allow water to make its way into the delta in Mexico’s Baja California state. Water hasn’t flowed regularly in the once-lush region since the 1960s.

Scientists are measuring how much of an impact just a little bit of water can have on reviving the ecosystem. Early findings show the flow of water reversed a 13-year decline in vegetation.

University of Arizona geoscientist Karl Flessa said there's a good chance the newly established cottonwood and willow trees will survive decades to come, but it isn't only nature that is benefiting.

“People in the local communities along the river were extraordinarily receptive and joyous to the reestablishment of their river even though it was just for a brief amount of time," Flessa said.

The project was part of a rare water-sharing deal between Mexico and the U.S. called Minute 319. The deal expires in 2017, and Flessa said he wants it renewed, and he hopes the next agreement allows for another water release.

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