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
With her pink and purple Disney princess fishing rod, 2-year-old Aleena Gonzales settles into her dad’s lap and casts a line into San Felipe Creek. Her big sister, 7-year-old Deleya Gonzales, sits beside them in the shade and casts her own line.
“This was a staple for me growing up,” said their father, Javier Gonzales. “Now I want to share it with them.”
On hot summer days, hundreds of kids spend their days swimming and playing in the spring-fed creek that runs through Del Rio. The water that bubbles up from the ground exceeds drinking water standards. The abundant water supply in the middle of a desert is the reason the city exists. Water is so plentiful that a canal system runs through the city to carry it and residents flood irrigate their lawns. The rest of the water flows into the Rio Grande.
“This is what defines Del Rio,” said City Councilman Mike Wrob. “Why would anyone want to pump it dry?”
The reason is landowners in Del Rio and the surrounding Val Verde County have the potential to make a lot of money if they can export groundwater. The concern is, if the groundwater is pumped, then the aquifer will drop and the springs will dry up.
The resulting tension leaves the City of Del Rio and Val Verde County on their third major attempt to form a groundwater district. Wrob is one of the leaders of that push.
He was also our host in Del Rio and took us on a flight over the county so we could see the Rio Grande, the springs and the rivers and creeks they support.
It is a unique place. The landscape is mostly limestone plateaus, small canyons and rolling hills. Cactus, agave and mesquite can handle the thin soils and scant rainfall, but few other plants can. The only lush areas are streaks of green where the springs emerge.
Wrob feels like an underdog. He knows the work to keep groundwater in Val Verde County will probably never end. The big cities all want more water and have the votes and money.
Wrob has a pretty spring that he thinks should be allowed to keep flowing.
His strongest argument may come from Deleya. She loves spending her summers by the creek. It’s something her whole family can do together.
“It’s awesome,” she said.
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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.