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Concern and Celebration on the Colorado River

PHOTO: The Lower Colorado River at Utah's Gold Bar Campground. Photo credit: A.E. Crane, America's Byways.
PHOTO: The Lower Colorado River at Utah's Gold Bar Campground. Photo credit: A.E. Crane, America's Byways.
October 11, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY - Preserving the Colorado River is a focus of Latino leaders in the Southwest, who gathered on Wednesday in Yuma, Ariz., to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Two years ago, use of Colorado River water - by Utah, six other states and Mexico - officially outstripped its total annual flow. Experts say it is slowly drying up due to over-consumption, drought and climate change.

Sal Rivera, Arizona coordinator for the group Nuestro Rio (Spanish for "our river"), says the Colorado has been used for centuries by Latinos for farming and recreation, but they can no longer assume it will be around forever.

"It has been an important part of our heritage, like for all Americans, but we want to celebrate that heritage and really talk about how it's important also to our community, and how our community is committed to conservation and preservation efforts, also."

The Yuma meeting was held near the birthplace of farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, who spent his childhood in the area. The U.S. Department of the Interior is expected to issue a final report next month on a major study addressing the supply and demand imbalance on the Colorado.

Most of the Colorado River water is used for agriculture, but Rivera says home and business conservation measures also are important - from low-flow plumbing fixtures and shorter showers, to swimming pool covers.

"There's some old ideas that have been out there for a long time, but those things work. If we could get more people to do those simple things, major progress can be made without having any significant impact on our quality of life."

Rivera says the Colorado River is crucial to the economies of the states that use it. It irrigates several million acres of cropland and provides drinking water for 30 million people.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT