The Rio Grande is disappearing. Demand for water is growing as snow packs shrink, rain patterns shift and average temperatures rise faster than they ever have in the past 11,000 years.Read more
There is no middle ground for water here, where the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos meet.
The Rio Grande is flowing at 0 cubic feet per second above the confluence and more than 900 CFS below. A couple of weeks ago, the riverbed was carrying 10,000 CFS toward Mexico.
I’m staying with local guide Charlie Angell. At his house, he has rigged up tanks to capture 6,400 gallons of rainwater. He gets 10 gallons a week for drinking from town and everything else is off the rain. When the droughts come, he takes sponge baths and cuts back on shaving. But he gets by.
This afternoon, I interviewed a farmer who came for a visit. The farmer had recently planted a pecan orchard. When they mature, pecan trees need six feet of water per acre a year to reach their peak productivity.
The region averages 10 inches a year. The farmer has enough water rights to make up the difference by pumping from the river.
When it rains here it floods. When the droughts come, towns disappear.
Today we toured an abandoned dairy and the town of Adobe along the Rio Grande upstream from Presidio. Tomorrow we plan to go into Mexico to look at waterfalls.
Those who have water take it for granted. Those who don’t, worship it.
I’ve been asked to write more about what it was like to walk from Indian Hot Springs to Candelaria. It was an adventure. I got to climb cliffs and pick my way through rough country. I followed trails that were barely indents in the ground but had probably been used for thousands of years. I started with almost two gallons of water in my backpack and drank deeply to lighten the load as quickly as possible.
When I was low on water, I dreamed all night of being offered some and then having it taken away. I had spent an afternoon following false leads trying to find water.
When three cowboys came by my camp early the following morning and asked if I had seen their cows, I was too confused and ashamed to ask if they knew where I could get water.
In less than two hours of walking under a cloudless sky, I had transitioned from taking water for granted to worshiping it. I found a well, but the water was salty. I tried to distill it, but realized my methods and timing would do me little good.
Then I found a spring.
A week later, I am still hoarding my water, even when I have plenty to drink and even shower.
I don’t know how to find a balance for my own water use. I wonder how it could be possible for a region like this, with two countries, two rivers and such a gap between the haves and the have-nots.
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As they travel, Colin and Erich are taking water samples for the following periodic water quality tests. In partnership with The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment’s Texas Stream Team Program at Texas State University, the results will be added to a public database it helps maintain for research and monitoring water quality.
While making his way to the Gulf of Mexico, Colin will be periodically activating a device that uses satellite technology to share his current location. Use this map to see where he traveled on this day.
|Check-In||Time of Check-In (CST)||Latitude||Longitude|
To report on and understand the haphazard irrigation system the Rio Grande has become and the changes it is going through, Colin decided the best approach would be to travel the length of the Rio Grande by foot and small boat.
He knew it would give him a unique perspective on a river that few understand. It did require many long days of moving slowly and camping on muddy riverbanks, but Colin likes that sort of thing.
The benefit was it provided access to people who wanted to share their stories and experiences with the Rio Grande. Via Facebook and chance encounters, Colin made instant friends who opened their homes. They provided help from loaning their trucks to their cell phone contact lists to help tell the story of the Rio Grande.
The trip would not have been possible without their help, along with the dedicated assistance of David Lozano, Jason Jones and Daniel Dibona, who drove thousands of miles to get people and boats in place.