The Rio Grande River, it’s over 1,800 miles long. It starts in the Colorado Rockies and ends in Brownsville as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
The World Wildlife Fund calls it one of the top ten most endangered rivers in the world. The Rio Grande is currently facing bacteria, pollution, water mismanagement, invasive plant species and many other issues. We take a closer look at various communities along the Texas Border, where we find different communities have different problems. However, concerns for the river are heard throughout the border.
Leslie Grijalva Environmental Protection Specialist at the International Boundary an Water Commission (IBWC) says, “It doesn’t matter what country you live in or what state you live in… everybody shares that water.”
Today many efforts in place to monitor the water quality. Such is the case with the Clean Rivers Program.
“The Clean Rivers Program is tasked with monitoring the water quality of the River,” says Grijalva.
The International Boundary and Water Commission is highly vigilant. They’re always in need of help or volunteers to monitor over 1,200 miles of river in Texas alone.
Other mass coordinated efforts include the Rio Research Roundup. There students collect data to check water quality. It’s part of an effort led by The Rio Grande International Study Center. In Laredo, they are proposing a new initiative for the organization’s 25th Anniversary.
Melissa Cigarroa President of the study center tells us they’re trying to “put in real time water quality monitoring sensors in the river.” Those sensors could then get updates every 15 minutes on the health of the river.
Then there’s awareness. On our journey we found there is a disconnect between the average person and experts. We find it’s hard to explain the need to protect the river if no one knows it’s in danger.
Tricia Cortez, Executive Director for the Rio Grande International Study Center says, “On an individual level, we need to always be concerned on water conservation on how much water your consuming. Things like litter, in rain events, that goes directly in to the streets and storm drains and into our river.”
The study center tells us something can be done to protect the river. They look to other communities like the Boston River. That body of water became swimmable after 50 years of environmental concerns. However for now the Rio Grande remains endangered, with some hopeful a solution to the endangered status is around the corner.
You can find a copy of the August 2018 water quality report here (the latest as of this report).