« Return to this article

Know the West

A trickle of hope

  A thirsty system of dams, growing desert cities and irrigators may never allow the Colorado River delta to be the mecca of animal and plant diversity it once was. But Mexican and U.S. researchers working with the Environmental Defense Fund say the brackish and often polluted flow that does reach the delta could help revive the struggling ecosystem. The team's work, 100 pages of text, photos and diagrams, published in A Delta Once More: Restoring Riparian and Wetland Habitat in the Colorado River Delta, suggests that more efficient use of agricultural and municipal wastewater, dam releases and floodwaters may restore critical parts of what was once a nearly 2 million-acre wetland. "What you see down there is two things," says Mark Briggs, an ecologist from the Sonoran Institute and one of the report's authors. "You see the loss of wetland habitat, and then you see the potential. The thought then comes to mind, well, here we are with some significant area that is still native. What if there is a little thought given to managing that area in a way more compatible to the environment?" You can read the report and EDF's recommendations at www.edf.org/delta, or call 303/440-4901 and request a copy for $30.

* Ali Macalady