Originally Published March 24, 2014


The floodgates of the Morelos Dam outside of Yuma, Ariz. were opened on Sunday, part of a pilot project to release water from the Colorado River into its parched delta in Mexico’s northwestern Baja California state.

Water hasn’t flowed regularly in the once-lush delta since 1960, and environmental groups say the drying up of the delta has had a disastrous impact on the region’s ecosystem, and the economic livelihood of communities that relied on the water.

Karl Flessa, a professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona, said this is the first attempt at an engineered flooding of the delta, and that experts will be closely monitoring nature's response to the water.

“We’re going to see how much water it takes to bring back some of the trees, and bring back the bird populations that depend on that vegetation," he said. "Really trying to figure out how to do restoration with the smallest amount of water possible.”

The project will run for the next eight weeks.

During that time, 105,000-acre feet, just under 1 percent of the annual average flow of the Colorado River, will be released from the dam on the U.S.-Mexico border.