The day the Colorado River was made whole

David Festa

She was standing next to a river in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, where, days before, there was only sand – her face beaming on the video screen.

On March 26, 2014, I sat in a large meeting room in Austin, Texas, with all my colleagues in our Ecosystems program. We watched, enthralled and entranced, as Jennifer Pitt, our Colorado River program director, spoke to us about the river’s progress on a live feed via her cell phone. 

The Colorado River Delta pulse flow – the temporary release of water across the United States-Mexico border that brought relief and restoration to the dry, empty river delta ecosystem – is something to brag about.

But it was this special moment I shared with the Ecosystems team in that conference room that was the real, personal highlight. 

Even more inspiring than the body of water behind her was the elated smile on Jennifer’s face. I remember her closest colleagues commenting that they had never seen Jennifer so happy.

Her grin brought instant tears to many eyes. It was a moment of celebration, appreciation and affirmation of what we can achieve as a program and organization.

Almost two months later the pulse flow allowed the Colorado River to complete its journey to the sea in the Upper Gulf of California for the first time since 1998. As Jennifer described it at the time, “a fundamental disruption of nature has been made whole again.”

I thought the pulse flow had the same unifying effect on our team. It was tangible proof, so refreshing by nature, that we can accomplish what may seem like the impossible.