Honor the Colorado River by protecting it

By Nita Gonzales

Colorado River Day on July 25 is a special day for many Latinos. That is the day in 1921 when Congress renamed the Colorado River from the “Grand” to the “Colorado.”  It is a day we celebrate and reflect what this mighty river means in our daily lives and to our history.

For Latinos living in the Southwest, the Colorado River occupies a special place. In addition to its economic and environmental contributions, the river is at the heart of our culture for centuries. Our faith communities still baptize people in the river. Protecting the river is more than just smart water management for Latinos in the Colorado River basin; it is honoring part of a rich heritage.

And as citizens of the Colorado River Basin, we must protect it.

So we celebrate our beloved river on Colorado River Day each year, to bring attention to the importance of the river and to water conservation as the greatest tool to sustain the river for today and for the next generations.

In Colorado, to help face our water challenges, we have created a state water plan which was finalized in November 2015.

  The overarching sentiment for the plan came from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper when he said, “every conversation about water should start with conservation.”  Indeed, the plan has put forth an unprecedented emphasis on sound conservation measures and directs attention to keeping the Colorado River healthy and flowing.

The lack of engagement on the state water plan almost eight months later is distressing.  We are going to need action from the Legislature to ensure implementation of these steps.

As we celebrate Colorado River Day on July 25, these are the Top 10 things we wish for to protect our “Mother of Rivers.”

1. Water conservation, the most cost-effective and efficient answer to our water challenges, in urban areas and agriculture.

2. More efficient management in drought.

3. Keeping the river healthy and flowing to protect wildlife and ecosystems that rely on them.

4. Education and personal responsibility for water conservation in our homes and businesses.

5. Coordination among local, state and federal policymakers to ensure long-term success.

6. No new dams or large diversions.  There is no water left to divert and the price tag is too high.

7. Permanent halt on new uranium mines near the Grand Canyon that could contaminate creeks and other tributaries that flow into the Colorado River.

8. Multiple and diverse communities working together on the sustainability of the Colorado River.

9. State and local governments acting now, before the gap between needs and availability grows.

10. A new generation of river stewards from Latino youth and the guidance to become ambassadors for the Colorado River.

Chief Seattle, for whom the biggest city in the Northwest was named, once said, “You must give to the river the kindness you would to any brother.” Across Colorado and the rest of the Colorado River basin, these words have never been truer. For the sake of our heritage and our future we must protect the river from harmful forces.  We must take care of this most precious Colorado River so that it may take care of us.

Nita Gonzales is Colorado coordinator of Nuestro Rio, an organization representing Latinos living in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada devoted to the protection and sustainability of the Colorado River.


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