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Protecting The Colorado River Unites New Mexicans

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Friday, July 26, 2013   

SANTA FE, N.M. – The Colorado River was the guest of honor at a special event Thursday.

The celebration of the waterway and its tributaries took place in Santa Fe. Organizers want state and federal officials to assist them in increasing urban and agricultural water conservation.

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss said this is the first year Santa Fe has been invited to participate.

He said Colorado River water is critical to water security in the West.

"As we face climate change, as we face drought, as we try to accommodate economic development and population growth,” he explained, “you can't plan too much or explore too much how we manage water."

The Gila, Animas, La Plata, Navajo and San Juan rivers are all Colorado River tributaries that flow through New Mexico.

More than 1 million New Mexicans depend on the Colorado River system for drinking water, and the San Juan River irrigates 100,000 acres of farmland in the state. It's also estimated that more than 17,000 jobs in the Land of Enchantment are supported by recreation on Colorado River tributaries.

Don Bustos is a certified organic farmer in Santa Cruz. He's been farming since his grandfather plowed the fields with a mule and believes the Colorado River is as basic in its impact on New Mexico as food and money.

"I know there's a lot of industries vying for that Colorado River water and how important it is to think about agriculture,” he said, “and how important it is to create those economies around a sustainable food system where the money stays right in the local community and is turned over at least three times with that same dollar from that water."

Harold Trujillo, who farms in Mora, is the vice chair of the New Mexico Acequia Association. He believes these special events are important in alerting people to the challenges of the drought, despite recent rains.

In his address at Colorado River 2013, Trujillo made two points about safeguarding the river.

"I think we can protect it by conserving the water,” he said. “Also making sure it is not polluted with any kinds of wastes from cities or manufacturing. And then also, farmers, that they make sure that they don't waste their water."

At the event, organizers offered a plan asking local elected officials to sign a statement supporting robust progress of water conservation in the Southwest.

Meantime, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the seven Colorado River states are meeting to determine the next steps in river conservation.





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