Restoring the Colorado River Delta through Women-led Restoration

From left to right, Alma Merendón, Rosa González, Cristal Galindo, and Celedonia Alvarado leaders in native vegetation production, restoration, and monitoring activities at Laguna Grande site. Image credit: Rabi Hernandez, Sonoran Institute

Restoring the Colorado River Delta through Women-led Restoration

Bioregion Baja California & Southern Deserts (NA30)
Category Nature Conservation

Our project categories represent one of three core solutions pathways to solving climate change. Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers, and community agriculture.

Realm Northern America

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status active

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Active indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$$

$$$ indicates a project between $250,000-$1 million.

Timeframe 12 Months
Partner The Sonoran Institute

Make a donation

100% of your donation will go directly to support this project. You can also give a gift in honor of a friend or family member.


Secure payment. USD donations tax-deductible.

One Earth’s Project Marketplace funds on-the-ground climate solutions that are key to solving the climate crisis through three pillars of collective action — renewable energy, nature conservation, and regenerative agriculture. This project restores and protects the biodiversity of the Colorado River Delta.

The Colorado River has not connected to the sea for a generation, and its Delta is dying out. This once lush region of 3,000 square miles teeming with plant, bird, and marine life lived only in the memory of older community members.

Most had abandoned hope that nature would ever return. No water means no life. However, the inverse is also true.

Funding for this project will help the Sonoran Institute (SI) revive, enhance, and maintain 751 acres of this area and reconnect the Colorado River to the sea. By reintroducing water, landscapes, wildlife, and communities thrive together.

A women-led restoration team

Led by Edith Santiago, who has 22 years of experience in the restoration of wetlands, this project comprises a diverse team of biologists, ecologists, hydrologists, community planners, environmental educators, and economists. Women hold over 50% of these positions.

Monitoring and growing native species

Support will allow this team to monitor the water and surrounding wildlife and conduct restoration activities that include irrigation, weeding, fire prevention, vigilance, and signage to prevent vandalism.

It will also help grow native species at the SI nursery near the Delta. Producing vegetation closer to restoration activities prevents plant damage and reduces transportation time.

As the restored area has increased and water presence has been permanent in the last two years, beaver (Castor canadensis) sightings are more common.  Beavers feed on cottonwoods (Populus sp.) at Laguna Grande restoration site. Image credit: Guadalupe Fonseca, Sonoran Institute

Local outreach and education

Environmental education and outreach activities are essential to inspire the local community to help restore and conserve the Colorado River Delta. SI will achieve this through an online course about wildlife and vegetation, guided visits to restored areas, talks, presentations, and workshops. Building a training and multiple-use site will serve as a gathering and educational spot for the community.

SI has already engaged people through the visitor center at Laguna Grande, guided tours, and “Family Saturdays.” Through these programs, nearly 26,000 people have reconnected with the river.

The importance of centering on community

The recovery and stewardship of the Delta ultimately depend on the commitment of people who live in the region. Having local community groups, leaders, and government agencies participate in the restoration work, operate plant nurseries, manage restoration sites, and welcome guests is a significant part of this project.

With a flowing river and a steady stream of visitors, the conservation site will become the heart of an economy based on working with nature, and a living, learning laboratory for the one million residents of Mexicali.

A group of Environmental Laboratory Technician (high school) students at Laguna Grande restoration site. Learning about native vegetation, wildlife and connecting with the Colorado river. Image credit: Rabi Hernandez, Sonoran Institute

Long-term goals to protect more land and reach more people

By 2024, the project’s main objective is to enhance and maintain 751 acres. The long-term plan is to restore and protect 30,000 acres of habitat. Another prime goal is to connect the river and sea for an average of 146 days a year.

Through education and social media, it aims to reach more than 400,000 people who will get to know the endangered beaver and many of the 380 bird species in the Delta. It will continue implementing virtual and in-person activities with students from kindergarten through college, families, national and international media, and donors.

Collaborating governments mean successful conservation

As a leader in restoration, SI and its partners have been working in this region for over 20 years. Their work extends along the main channel of the Colorado River, from the US and Mexico border to the upper estuary of the Gulf of California, and includes a key tributary, the Rio Hardy.

SI’s work has been crucial to adopting agreements between the United States and Mexico that have become a global example of collaboration. The Minute 319 and 323 accords between the two governments support the complete restoration of the Colorado River Delta.

By advancing agreements governing the river, restoration can succeed in the Delta as people connect with their natural resources. SI’s team is optimistic that bringing the river back to life will make the local communities flourish harmoniously as one with nature.

Secure payment. USD donations tax-deductible.

Provide a major gift

Your contribution will help ensure the long term success of this important project. Gifts can be made as a tribute to a friend or family member and are tax-deductible for U.S. residents. Please contact us!