Latino leaders gathered last week in Yuma, Arizona, to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month—and to stress the importance of the Colorado River.
Two years ago, the Colorado's water use – by Utah, six other states and Mexico – officially outstripped its total annual flow. Experts say the river is slowly drying up, with a combination of over-consumption, drought and climate change. Sal Rivera of the group Nuestro Rio 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.
"And when they start learning that we have to be proactive to conserve and preserve it, I think they get on board and understand that, overwhelmingly, this is something that people want to support."
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. And if we could get more people to do those simple things, I think that there can be major progress 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.