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Latino Community Joins Together to Save the Colorado River

April 13, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE – Chronic drought, climate change and increased demand are drying up the Colorado River, with 35 percent of the stored water available lost over the past 12 years. Nuestro Rio, a network of 13,000 Latinos in the Southwest, is using its collective voice to help save the river.

Katherine Yuhas, conservation officer at the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority, says New Mexico gets about 11 percent of its water from the Colorado River.

"Here in Albuquerque, we use that water as drinking water – and we get about half of our drinking water from that source."

Yuhas says the effort to save the river has three goals: to improve urban conservation, improve agricultural conservation and to establish water banks in the region, where water rights can be transferred.

Deana Archuleta, the New Mexico spokesperson for Nuestro Rio, says the depletion of the Colorado River means southwestern states will have to find new sources of water, both for consumption and agriculture. Conservation is the next vital water source, she says.

"As the Colorado declines, there's a strong indication that each of the states will have to start taking less of a share of water."

Nuestro Rio is also sending a musical message to policymakers – that Latinos want utilities and state and federal governments to plan for a future in which the Colorado River waters flow strongly. With a special nod to the late activist Cesar Chavez, who was born along the Colorado, a song was composed to reach out to the Hispanic community and bring everyone together in an effort to save the river. Its lyrics read, in part, "And as Cesar Chavez said, 'Yes we can save our river.' Yes, we can!"

Representatives from the offices of Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Martin Heinrich attended the event in Albuquerque and expressed support for the project, adds Yuhas.

Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM