The Colorado River and its tributaries serve more than 40 million people and grow more than 5 million acres of crops across the United States and Mexico. It is a critical lifeline for the health of the region. The 1922 Colorado River Compact, and subsequent agreements, have allotted more water to states than the River has. Decades of overuse, in combination with a 17-year drought and climate change, have put strain on this precious resource. In fact, “scientists have projected [global] warming will likely cause the river’s flow to decrease by 35 percent or more this century.”
Both the United States and Mexico need to agree on a strategy to conserve water. Additionally, multiple stakeholders need to be involved in any plan or strategy, given the River’s far-reaching constituents and the extraordinarily complicated nature of water management.
“To solve the problems of the Colorado River, it really takes collaboration. In many ways, the Colorado River has been an example of how we can overdevelop a basin, or a landscape, but I think now it’s an example of how, through collaboration and planning and science and partnerships, we can turn things around and make things better.” – Osvel Hinojosa, Pronatura Noroeste
Officially called “Minute No. 323 to the 1944 Mexican Water Treaty,” this nine-year agreement signed in 2017 calls for the United States and Mexico to work together to manage the River’s water and restore the Colorado River Delta. Redstone helped lead and coordinate philanthropies through the Water Funder Initiative, a “collaborative effort to identify and activate promising solutions through strategic philanthropic investments in the United States, starting in the American West, where the scarcity and reliability of clean water are urgent issues.” Those philanthropies catalyzed the Minute 323 deal through their support of NGOs and by providing the funding assurances needed to close the deal. Redstone also advised the philanthropies and NGOs as they developed their overall strategy to save the Colorado River.
Minute 323 is “a big win-win for both countries,” said Bart Fisher, Chairman of the Colorado River Board of California, and may be the long-term solution the River and the communities that depend on it sorely need.