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Colorado River Meets Gulf of California for First Time in 16 Years

May 16, 2014 12:02 PM EDT

For the first time in 16 years, the Colorado River met the Gulf of California on Thursday, restoring water flow to a long barren area.

Water conservationists led the artificially induced "pulse flow" as part of a flood experiment to help the Colorado River reach the sea, News Tonight Africa (NAT) reported. The water traveled nearly 100 miles from a barren delta at the Morelos Dam just south of where California, Arizona and Mexico meet.

The project was made possible by a bi-national agreement between the United States and Mexico. Since late March, US and Mexican authorities started to release large amounts of water into the Colorado River, providing enough water to supply over 200,000 homes for a year.

This historic reconnection is important, "but I think it's more important to us as human beings and our sense of what is right for our river, then it is in terms of a particular ecological goal that I could express to you," Jennifer Pitt of the Environmental Defense Fund said, according to KJZZ.

This pulse flow - which ends Sunday - will help in reviving trees, wildlife and aquatic life that have been troubled after the delta dried up decades ago. Water supply has not been regular into the Sea of Cortez in more than 50 years, according to NAT. It is also supposed to simulate floods that used to sweep through the delta every spring, which would wash away sediment into the sea.

Conservationists stress that it will take years before the water will start providing such environmental benefits, but nearby residents are happy for now.

"Maybe the more immediate impact was the story of the communities coming back to their river which had been missing for so long, and kids coming to see the river that they have never seen before," Pitt commented.

The Colorado River is the main source of water supply for seven US states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Also, the Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora rely on its water flow.

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