As a Latino local elected official in New Mexico, I am greatly concerned about the current status of the Colorado River. Some northern New Mexico communities whose rivers are tributaries of the Colorado River are enjoyed and frequently visited by myself and many of my constituents and their families.
These areas of northern New Mexico rely on the Colorado River not only for life-sustaining water, but also for their heritage, culture, and way of life.
Unfortunately, according to the 2012 Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Supply and Demand Study, there is not enough water in the Colorado River to meet the basin’s current water demands, let alone support future demand increases.
We are seeing the truth of that forecast right now in California, where 15 years of drought and climate change have caused such austere conditions that Gov. Jerry Brown recently instituted mandatory 25 percent cuts in water use in the state’s cities and towns.
But those portions of New Mexico and the rest of the areas in the Colorado River basin need not face an emergency situation like California’s. If we act now with smart planning to implement conservation solutions while protecting healthy rivers, we can meet our future water demands and save the Colorado River through practical, flexible and market-based options such as improving urban conservation and helping farmers become more efficient.
Nuestro Rio is calling on our leaders from communities, businesses, government and residents to come together to support water conservation and efficiency programs immediately – programs that optimize existing water infrastructure, maximize available water supplies and provide healthy river flows for communities and ecosystems throughout the Colorado Basin.
For Southwestern Latinos, the Colorado River occupies a special place in our northern New Mexico history and culture. Saving the Colorado is more than just smart water management for us; it is about protecting the rich heritage that defines us.
To some, it may not be clear why the fate of the Colorado River is of significance to New Mexicans. The truth is simple: we need to ensure that the Colorado River, and all of our rivers, are here for future generations to enjoy. It is a matter of doing what is right.
Teaching our younger generations how to conserve water will benefit their generation and future generations alike. After all, water is life. If we do not make a change now, what will the quality of life look like in five, 10 or even 15 years?
Everyone can benefit from learning and implementing water conservation in their communities.
Michelle R. Martinez is a member of the Nuestro Rio Regional Water Caucus.