Interior Department recognizes Environmental Defense Fund, partners for conservation efforts to restore the Colorado River delta

January 16, 2014
Contact: 
Chandler Clay, 202-572-3312, cclay@edf.org

(Washington, DC – Jan. 16, 2014) Top officials from the U.S. Department of Interior, State Department and Bureau of Reclamation gathered Thursday to present the “Partners in Conservation Award” to partnerships that “achieved exemplary conservation results through cooperation and innovation across America.”

This year’s award recipients included representatives from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Sonoran Institute, The Nature Conservancy and Pronatura who have worked closely with other conservation groups and government officials from the U.S. and Mexico to orchestrate and secure a historic, binational, water-sharing agreement committed to implementing environmental restoration to the dry Colorado River delta.

This agreement, formally known as Minute 319, was among the first between nations to commit to sustaining shared natural values.

“We all knew going into this partnership that success would require buy-in from sovereigns with significant differences in water management practices, not to mention language, systems of governance and culture,” said Jennifer Pitt, director for EDF’s Colorado River Project. “Thanks to Interior’s willingness to work with conservation organizations, we were able to break down physical, political and cultural barriers to benefit water users on both sides of the border.”

Federal officials from the U.S. and Mexico worked with EDF and other conservation organizations on every aspect of the water agreement, including surplus and shortage sharing, rules that allow Mexico to store water in U.S. reservoirs, binational financing of a canal lining project to reduce seepage and water loss, and providing a venue for discussing future cooperative binational projects.

Pitt adds, “If we can show the long-term benefits of this five-year agreement, then there’s no limit to what we can achieve with long-term commitments to sharing water across borders.”

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