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’s a joke on any river where water is fought over: It is better to be upstream with a shovel than downstream with a lawyer.
For shrimpers that joke is a bit off. The shrimp they catch in the Gulf of Mexico depends on estuaries. Those, in turn, depend on freshwater inflow from rivers.
“As more freshwater comes into the bays, more shrimp go into the gulf,” explained Greg Londrie, vice president of Texas Gulf Trawlers.
Unfortunately for the shrimpers and the estuaries, neither has a legal right to water and everyone upstream has a shovel.
We spent today getting ready for the last reach of the Rio Grande and taking in some of the local sights. Our host Ellen Tyma won the shrimp-shelling competition at the docks where Londrie gives shrimp boat tours.
She also lives near where the last battle of the Civil War was fought. Historians still debate why the Battle of Palmito Ranch was fought, because the war had officially ended three weeks prior. The Confederates won the battle.
What the battle made clear was that cotton was a big money maker. No one wanted to give up control of its movement. The Confederates were still guarding Brownsville and its lucrative trade route to Mexico. One of the leading theories is that the Union wanted to capture the 2,000 bales of cotton that were sitting in a warehouse in Brownsville.
Soon after the war, irrigation districts began to expand and the Rio Grande started to shrink.
The paddle wheelers that navigated the river ran out of water and were replaced by the railroad.
The shovels had arrived.
Note: The dissolved oxygen meter has decided to quit the trip early, so that number is inaccurate.
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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.