Colorado RiverBy Dawn Van Dyke, communications manager

In March 2014, water flooded the Colorado River’s dry bed. This event, called a pulse flow, occurred when the Morelos Dam, near the United States–Mexico border and Yuma, Arizona, opened its gates and filled the dry bed for eight weeks. The event, similar to the spring floods that halted after the river was dammed, allowed water to reach the Gulf of California for the first time since 1997.

Just more than two years later, scientists assessed the results.

According to a Circle of Blue report, during two growing seasons the number of native trees on the river banks increased, including cottonwoods and willows. With more habitat, birds increased too: 19 key bird species increased by 49 percent. And, the water flowing through the river recharged the aquifer.

Scientists pointed out that just dumping water into the river alone wouldn’t work. They had to actively manage the flow.

The pulse flow was the result of an agreement between the United States and Mexico called Minute 319. Officials are currently negotiating a new agreement in the hopes of continuing the practice.

“People in this area have for a long time gone without knowing that they have a river nearby,” ecologist Karen Schlatter told Circle of Blue. “To have a river suddenly come through the community was something special and people want to see more of that.”

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