PHOENIX – She wasn't necessarily popping champagne Thursday, but conservationist Jennifer Pitt was certainly celebrating the arrival of water from the Colorado River into the Sea of Cortez.
It was monumental moment for conservationists, who said that water hasn't flowed regularly from the Colorado River to the sea in more than 50 years. It temporarily reached the sea twice in the 1980s and last in 1993.
"The pulse flow meeting the sea marks completion of a journey that the Colorado River has not made in a long time, and I take it as a sign of hope not only for our efforts to restore the Colorado River Delta, but also rivers and watersheds everywhere in the world where climate change promises an uncertain future," said Pitt, director of the Environmental Defense Fund's Colorado River Project.
"I think, once again, is sort of overwhelming, and I think it sheds light on a sort of global interest in the Colorado River completing that journey again," Pitt said.
The water reached the sea on Thursday afternoon. It traveled nearly 100 miles from a previously barren delta at the Morelos Dam just south of where California, Arizona and Mexico meet. It was a result of a bi-national agreement that came together after years of negotiations.
Water has not regularly flowed into the Sea of Cortez in more than 50 years. In 1983, floods sent water down to the ocean, and another flood a decade later also temporarily increased the flow.
Enough water to supply over 200,000 homes for a year was released on March 23 in an effort to revive trees, wildlife and aquatic life that have perished since the delta dried up decades ago.
Conservationists say it'll be years before they see the environmental effects of the water streaming through, but residents in the town of San Luis Rio Colorado in the Mexican state of Sonora have been frolicking in the water and gathering at the river ever since the flow started.