An innovative new partnership supports Latino advocates for the Colorado
$84 Million and Worth Every Penny
Missoulians take control of their water
"Public acquisition of the water is a really big deal. It brings these priceless water assets under public ownership and puts them out of reach of private investors that view water as the next hot investment. Blue gold.”
– Karen Knudsen, Executive Director, Clark Fork Coalition
How much is it worth to put community water rights under public ownership? For the city of Missoula, Montana, it cost $84 million and several years of expensive court proceedings.
When a global equity firm took over Missoula’s water system in 2011, city leaders became concerned. “Water is our commons, and we woke up to that fact when a private company began running our water system,” says Karen Knudsen, executive director of the Clark Fork Coalition and one of the key players in the purchase.
Missoulians as a whole understand the value of their water system, which includes a prolific Ice Age aquifer and the feeder streams that recharge it. Rattlesnake Creek alone drains eight wilderness lakes, and serves as the city’s emergency backup water supply.
City leadership reflects those public values. Mayor John Engen “saw the opening, understood the importance, and recognized the need,” says Knudsen. Together with a broad base of partners and other elected officials, Engen moved forward with an audacious vision: putting the Missoula water supply into the hands of the people who live there—for the foreseeable future.
Raise the River
Bringing hope back to the Colorado River Delta
"The US and Mexico have now doubled down on their efforts to forestall a shortage declaration on the Colorado River in response to ongoing drought. Most notable for conservationists is the agreement’s commitment to restoring the Colorado River Delta.”
– John Shepard, Senior Director of Programs, Sonoran Institute
In the spring of 2014, the Colorado River reached the sea for the first time in 16 years, during a controlled “pulse flow” mimicking the periodic floods that inundated the Colorado River Delta for eons. Those floods were essential to the health of the river corridor, so it was an inspiring moment for the communities and NGOs who had worked for decades to bring life back to the Delta.
The pulse flow was the result of an extensive binational river restoration initiative in the Delta, underscoring the importance of the river for the millions who depend on it for drinking, farming, and spiritual purposes. It was also a testament to the unique and scrappy partnership known as Raise the River: Six U.S. and Mexican non-governmental organizations, committed to restoring the Delta.
Raise the River partners worked together for nearly two decades, conducting scientific studies, securing funds to bring small amounts of water to the Delta, and involving local communities in pilot restoration projects. Finally, a historic bi-national agreement, Minute 319, was signed in November 2012, making the pulse flow possible. After that, restoration efforts kicked into high gear.