Colorado River by xiaoyounan


									                         Colorado River: “Too
                        thin to plow, too thick
                               to drink”
                        The View from Toroweap
                        Overlook, 3000 vertical feet
                        above the Colorado River, is
                        breathtaking; the sheer drop,
                        dramatic! Equally impressive are
                        the volcanic features, cinder
                        cones and lava flows, which make
                        this viewpoint unique in Grand
                        Canyon National Park. Renowned
                        Lava Falls Rapid is just downriver
Photo and text credit
                        and can easily be seen and heard         from the overlook.
“Whiskey is for drinking,but water is
        for fighting about”
 Quote attributed to Mark Twain, but unverified

      Water Systems

 Figure produced by USGS, Geological Fact Sheet 004-99
Map Created by Rob Ribokas,
The Colorado River is “born” in the
mountains of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado,
primarily from melting winter snow pack and
seasonal rains.
It is approximately 1470 miles in length.
Besides water, the system carries about
9 million tons of salt per year and (pre-
dams) at least 147 million tons of
sediment per year.
It is the most heavily “litigated” river in
the world
     “The Law of the River”
 A. The 1922 “Colorado River Compact”

Flow rates determined at Lee’s Ferry,
Arizona based on data from a 3 year
average. 18 million acre feet per year.


           Nevada        Utah


                                     Lee’s Ferry,
                                  New Mexico

                                   An aerial view of
                                   Lee’s Ferry,
Point 1: Using the Lee’s Ferry flow
rates the compact allowed 7.5 maf to
the “Upper Basin States” and 7.5 maf
to the “Lower Basin States”.

Point 2: Any water not “put to good
use” by the Upper Basin States could be
used by the Lower Basin States

Note: The Supreme Court had held earlier
that, “First in time, first in right”
B. The Boulder Canyon Project Act- 1928

                    Photo by Chris Zarafa-
                                       One of the “Seven
                                       Wonders of the
                                       Industrial World”

                                       Built between 1931-
                                       1935 at a cost of
                                       only $31,000,000
                                       Forms Lake Mead with
                                       a capacity of
                                       45,000,000,000 cubic
                                       meters of water

Photo by Nicolas Janberg-
             Lake Mead- Aerial photograph

Photo credit-
Two-fold purpose of the Dam
   1. To control the flow of the river
   2. To generate electricity

Ancillary results of Hoover Dam
   1. Almost eliminated sediment flow
        down stream from the dam.
   2. Increased salt content by use and
      re-use of the water coupled with
   3. Completely changed the downstream
OOPSIE- in all of our negotiations between
the States, we forgot about Mexico…
                 Colorado River Delta
C. The Treaty of 1945
 1. Negotiations between the United
    States and Mexico began in 1941.
 2. Since 1929 the “Basin States” had
    unofficially been allowing Mexico
    about 750,000 acre feet per year
    and Mexican agriculture in the
    delta had flourished.
  3. But by 1941 Mexico was actually
     using about 1.5 maf per year
  4. But why should “we” give it to them ?
5. There was no provision in the Treaty
   covering the quality of the water.
   That would end up “biting the U.S.
   in the rear” later. But, the Treaty
   was ratified by both governments
   and went into effect immediately.

   More on this later…
D. The Upper Colorado River Basin
   Compact of 1948.
   1. Which states were considered
      “Upper Basin”

           Nevada        Utah


                                     Lee’s Ferry,
                                  New Mexico

E. The Upper Colorado River Basin
   Compact of 1948.
   1. Which states were considered
      “Upper Basin”

   2. The amount of water each state
      was to receive (remember, the
      total for the upper basin was
      7.5 maf per year) was based on
      the percentage it contributed to
      the Colorado River as a whole.
3.Based on deceit, shenanigans, some
  data, and political clout the
  following distribution was hammered
     Colorado would get 52%
     Utah 23%
     Wyoming 14%
     New Mexico 11% and…
      Arizona 50,000 acre feet
F. The Colorado River Storage Project
   Act of 1956.
   Authorized the construction of 4 major
   storage dams

   Glen Canyon on the main stem Colorado

   Navajo on the San Juan River in New

   Flaming Gorge on the Green River in Utah

   And 3 minor storage facilities on the
   Gunnison River in Colorado
The most spectacular of them all is the
Glen Canyon Dam 15 miles above Lee’s
Ferry and forms Lake Powell.

     Aerial view of Glen Canyon Dam - photo by Andrew Pernick
Glen Canyon Dam removes sediment from
the Colorado, generates electricity and
provides flood control and recreation

These dams also hold surplus water from
wet years to be used by Upper Basin
States in dry years.

Hey! Wait a minute- what about the
water quality of Colorado River water
delivered to Mexico??? A quick review.

        Water Systems

   Figure produced by USGS, Geological Fact Sheet 004-99
The Problem of dissolved salts
1. Water at the headwaters of the
   Colorado averages about 50 ppm
2. By the time it gets to the Imperial
   Dam, the last dam on the U.S. side,
   it averages about 879 ppm.
3. In the early 1960’s the water delivered
   to Mexico rose above 2,000 ppm.
4. Mexico filed suit in International
   Court, claiming the water provided to
   them was killing their crops.
5. The main culprit was water draining
   back into the Gila River after being
   used in the Wellton-Mohawk Valley in
   Arizona, which approached salinity
   concentrations of >6,000 ppm (nearly
   double that of sea water- which is
   about 3,500-3,700 ppm).
    (not to mention heavy concentrations
     of fertilizer, pesticides and heavy
     metals such as Selenium)
So, where is the Wellton-Mohawk Valley?
Wellton-Mohawk Region
In order to retain the “Water Truce”,
the U.S.A. agreed to stop dumping
hyper-saline water into the Colorado
River drainage via the Gila River.

We agreed on an amendment (known
as a “Minute” to the Treaty).

Minute 242 states that the salinity level
entering Mexico can be no more than
115 ppm greater than that of the water
exiting the Imperial Dam, which would
be about 1,100 ppm.
To accomplish this task, we built a
concrete-lined, fifty mile long canal
from the Wellton-Mohawk Valley, due
south from the Gila River into Mexico.
Construction canal was finished (not
completed) in 1977.

The canal began operation and at peak
flows carries about 120,000 acre feet of
brackish water
Aerial Photograph of La Cienega de Santa Clara at
       the end of the Wellton-Mohawk Canal

   Photograph  Dr. Charles Bergman, “Red Delta: fighting for
              life at the end of the Colorado River
In addition, we spent approximately $350
million to build the Yuma Desalting Plant,
designed to clean-up water being returned
to the Colorado River. The waste brine
would be pumped to the Wellton-Mohawk
Canal and dumped in Mexico.

After a typical number of delays for a
Federal project of that size, the plant
went on-line in 1992. The system
worked at 1/3 capacity for a few months
and then was shut down because of high
At maximum capacity, the plant could
produce about 78,000 acre feet per

At peak production it is estimated
that the water produced by the
plant would cost area users between
$307 and $684 per acre foot in
2004 dollars. One estimate puts
the cost at nearly $900 per acre
Currently, Yuma
Water District users
are billed twice a
year at a rate of
$15.50 per 5 acre
G. Grand Canyon Protection Act 1992

       Photo credit
This Act directs the Secretary of Interior to
operate the Glen Canyon Dam in a manner that
protects the natural resources, cultural
resources and visitor uses of the Grand

         Photo credit
The Great California-Arizona War and
the “Central Arizona Project” aka CAP

Well… you can read all about it at
Now, back to the Upper, Lower Basin
and Mexico allocations
Remember, they were based on 3 years
of flow data taken at Lee’s Ferry, AZ.
Which yielded an estimate of 18 million
acre/feet per year. 7.5 for upper, 7.5
for lower and 1.5 for Mexico. Much of
the “excess” was directed for California.
The actual average flow rate over
the past 500 years has been 13.2
Now to La Cienega de Santa Clara
 (remember this was created by waste
 water shunted to the mud flats of
 Mexico by way of the Welland-Mohawk

 The flow rate varies but usually is
 about 120,000 acre feet per year of
 about 3,500 ppm salt.

 Too salty for agriculture, but just right
 for plants that thrive in estuarine
“You Can’t Conserve What is Already Lost”

    What was once a salt encrusted
    mudflat is now a verdant marsh

   How did the area go from mudflat
   to marsh?
Border of La Cienega de Santa Clara with
   the edge of Sonoran Desert habitat

 Photograph Dr. Charles Bergman, “Red Delta: fighting for
            life at the end of the Colorado River
The Colorado River Delta, looking toward the Sea of Cortéz
     La Cienega de Santa Clara

Photograph  Dr. Charles Bergman, “Red Delta: fighting for
           life at the end of the Colorado River
La Cienega de Santa Clara is home to
several taxa that receive Federal
Protection in the United States under
the Endangered Species Act.

Desert Pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius)
      Yuma Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris
     yumanensis)- U.S. Endangered Species

                                          Estimated that
                                          >90% of the
                                          World’s population
                                          lives totally within
                                          La Cienega de
                                          Santa Clara,

 Photograph Dr. Charles Bergman, “Red Delta:
fighting for life at the end of the Colorado River
    Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
      (Empidonax traillii extimus)
So, how was this marsh created and
what is it’s future?

  “Just add water”

So, how will this marsh be

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