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
Ramon Ramirez Jr. has 16 citrus trees and seven pecan trees at his home. His oranges are so sweet they taste like pineapple. His pecans trees give him more than he could ever eat.
“It’s a small paradise to me,” he said. “It is a nice place to live, here in the Valley.”
With the Army, Ramirez has lived all over the world. He chose to come back home to the Rio Grande. He now works at the Delta Lake Irrigation District maintaining the four pumps that lift water from the Rio Grande.
He said he never saw the Rio Grande as a place to play or visit. For him, it is a utility that is the lifeblood of the community. The pumps he maintains provide water to cities and farms via one of the largest networks of irrigation ditches off the Rio Grande.
When we paddled up to the edge of the dam that creates a pool for Ramirez’s pumps, we knew we were in need of some help.
As soon as I stopped paddling, my teeth started chattering. The drizzle and mist we have lived in for two days has soaked everything we own. It makes staying warm even more difficult as the daily temperatures swing between 40 and 50.
Ramirez was quick to step aside from the heater in the workshop to let us warm up and dry out. We never got completely dry or warm, but my teeth stopped chattering and I started thinking in complete sentences again.
Now we are camped above the dam of the La Feria Irrigation District. We will fall asleep to the sound of rain on our tents and the roar of water spilling over the dam.
There is no easy way over this dam either. But paddling and fish movement are not what this river was built to accommodate.
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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.