Effect of Restoration on Plant Greenness and Water Use in Relation to Drought in the Riparian Corridor of the Colorado River Delta

Pamela Nagler, Ibrahima Sall, Armando Barreto-Muñoz, Martha Gómez-Sapiens, Hamideh Nouri, Sattar Chavoshi Borujeni, Kamel Didan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Revitalization of the Colorado River delta riparian corridor and increasing riparian plant greenness and water use may be accomplished by added water and restoration efforts to offset declines measured since 2000 by Landsat. We use the two-band Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI2; a proxy for greenness) and evapotranspiration (ET, mm/day) using EVI2 and potential ET(ETo) from Yuma Valley. We assess if restoration with only 7.5% landcover had an impact on the unrestored reach-level landcover by measuring these two metrics, EVI2 and ET(EVI2) by comparing restored and unrestored areas. A key finding is that over 21-years EVI2 in the unrestored corridor decreased by 23.6% and ET(EVI2) decreased by 32% (0.87 mm/day). Since 2011, the unrestored reaches lost EVI2 (11%) and −0.73 mm/day ET(EVI2) (28%), but restored sites increased in EVI2 (36%) and 0.58 mm/day ET(EVI2) (20%). Water delivered to restored sites increased EVI2 by 33.6% and 1.29 mm/day ET(EVI2) (58%). EVI2 and ET(EVI2) as a function of the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index for drought periods highlight that restored and unrestored sites respond differently. Unrestored reaches are in decline; restored sites show increases in EVI2 and ET(EVI2). Restored sites do not have a significant impact on unrestored adjacent area, but smaller surface flows, a greater reliance on directed agricultural return flows, and deliveries of water to active restoration sites have revitalized habitat and increased ecosystem services in the delta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Colorado River delta
  • Minute 319
  • Minute 323
  • SPEI
  • SPI
  • drought
  • evapotranspiration
  • restoration
  • riparian plant health
  • vegetation greenness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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