The Colorado River’s resources are over-allocated to seven states in the U.S. and two in Mexico, with water shortages heightened by fast-growing urban populations and intensified agricultural use on both sides of the border. The critical water problem in the Colorado Delta region affects communities in Arizona, California, Baja California, and Sonora. The Colorado Delta supports significant remnant wetland areas of high biodiversity and important riparian habitats for endangered species, such as the vaquita porpoise, the Yuma clapper rail, the bobcat, and the desert pupfish. As drought, climate change, and policy decisions reduce the water flows in the Colorado River, the Delta’s wetlands are shrinking and deteriorating. These riparian areas are also important to thousands of people living in or near the Delta, who rely upon the riparian resources for ecotourism, hunting and fishing, and family recreation.
This research aimed to assess the perceptions of climate variability and climate change held by institutional stakeholders and local communities across the U.S.-Mexico Delta region and to examine the links between regional riparian wetland areas, water conservation, and drought and climate change, as perceived by local communities and institutions.
The project was conducted in three phases. Phase I, completed in 2005-2006, involved twenty decision-maker interviews, the construction of a socio-economic database for the Delta region, participation on a binational steering committee working toward conservation of this international area, and developing a research collaboration among the Sonoran Institute (SI), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the University of Arizona CLIMAS border research team.
Phase II, 2006-2008, involved mostly data collection. The research team conducted 800 random household surveys in three areas of the Delta: 1) within three “restoration zone communities” where Sonoran Institute was active in ecological restoration with local residents; 2) along the U.S. side of the Limitrophe region (Gadsden and Somerton); and 3) along the Mexican side of the Limitrophe region (a 23-mile rich, riparian area where the Colorado River forms the border between the U.S. and Mexico).
In Phase III, 2007-2008, the research team conducted interviews with approximately 50 group leaders in larger urban areas, such as Yuma, Mexicali and San Luis Rio Colorado, regarding their use and value of the Delta’s riparian resources. The team also completed the survey analysis and organized workshops to present preliminary survey and interview results to local communities in the region.