LAREDO, Texas – The Rio Grande River begins in Colorado, passes through El Paso, Laredo and Brownsville and flows out to the Gulf of Mexico. The Rio Grande was a place where people would go swimming, boating, and fishing without worry of what is in the river. That is not the case anymore because of the high levels of bacteria in the water. The Rio Grande still ranks as one of the ten most endangered rivers in the world.
The top issue is pollution.
Tricia Cortez, Executive Director, Rio Grande International Study Center says, “Part of the issue that we have here is from bacteria. We have approximately 6 million gallons of raw sewage that are still coming into the river everyday by Nuevo Laredo.”
Cortez says, while the volume of polluted water has gone down, 6 million gallons is still too much. The high levels of bacteria is raising public health concerns, because many rely on the river water, not only for drinking but for agriculture purposes.
Jonathan Salinas, Sierra Club Borderline Team, “There’s hundreds and thousands of acres of farm land on both sides of the river that depend on the river to irrigate those crops. It’s not just the source of drinking water but it’s truly the life source.”
The main concern for water activists is about protecting the Rio Grande. They’ve met with officials multiple times a year to discuss their plans for restoring the river.
“We need to have city officials and the public very engaged with how development happens in their communities, to protect the river and it’s creeks. The creeks are what feed the river.” says Cortez.
She adds that change can also happen within the community by watching how much water one consumes or picking up trash that could make it’s way into the river. As small as those acts may seem, they can make a big difference in assuring we have water for future generations.
Recently several groups, including the World Health Organization, identified the Rio Grande as a major factor in health along the border. That may open up funding to clean up the river from organizations around the globe in 2020.