News Release Archive

Reclamation Schedules October 5th Public Meetings on Methods to Recover or Replace Agricultural Return Flows Bypassing Colorado River

Media Contact: Bob Walsh, 702-293-8421,

For Release: September 30, 2005

The Bureau of Reclamation will conduct public meetings in Yuma and Phoenix, Ariz., on October 5 to solicit input on potential methods, including operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant, to recover or replace agricultural return flows from the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District. These flows currently bypass the Colorado River and are discharged to the Cienega de Santa Clara in Mexico.

Keeping these agricultural return flows out of the Colorado River has been an important method for United States to meet its salinity control obligations to Mexico under Minute 242 of the 1944 United States-Mexico Treaty.

However, this water, about 108,000 acre-feet a year, is not included in the 1.5 million acre-foot delivery obligation. Consequently, system storage from the Colorado River has been used to make up for the bypass flow. The current drought and projected long-term water demands have heightened concern about this demand on the river system.

The meeting times and locations are:

In Yuma, Ariz., from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Yuma Crossing State Historic Park, 201 North 4th Avenue; and

In Phoenix, Ariz., from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Arizona Department of Water Resources 3rd floor conference room, 500 North Third Street.

"This public process is an opportunity for all interested parties to provide relevant information to Reclamation relating to recovery or replacement of the bypass flow," said Bob Johnson, Regional Director for Reclamation's Lower Colorado Region. "This information will be used in formulating future decisions relating to these flows."

The Yuma Desalting Plant was originally constructed to recover part of the bypass flow and return it to the river as part of the United States' 1.5 million acre-foot delivery obligation. However, since the United States has been able to meet the salinity requirements of Minute 242 with system water, operation of the desalting plant has not been necessary, and the drainage water has been bypassed around the plant and directly into Mexico. Various other methods for recovering or replacing the bypass flow have been proposed, including proposals that address potential impacts to the wetlands in the Cienega de Santa Clara.

Reclamation has established a web site to provide information during this public process. In addition to providing background, the site will include all comments received throughout the process. The Web site, which will be functional prior to October 5, is

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.