Hance Rapids Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA. (Getty Images)

“Save the Colorado River,” urges Latino student group to Congress

This week, a group of selected students from the southwestern U.S. is in Washington, D.C. They have traveled there to talk to Congress about saving the Colorado River — named the most endangered river in the country.

Nuestro Rio, a Latino coalition created to conserve the principal river (1,450-miles) of the southwestern United States, took students on a six-day raft trip along the Colorado River. They then traveled to Washington to share with 30 congressional offices at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy Conference what they learned about the river’s history — as well the issues associated with the river and the outlook for its future. The video they took of their trip is being presented to members of Congress.

“Nuestro Rio wanted to take 20 youth on this river rafting trip — these students wrote a 500-word essay and those with the highest GPA went on the trip,” says Marco Rauda, national coordinator of Nuestro Rio. “To go to Washington, we took the kids who had the most compelling story to share with Congress, and who wanted to get more active.”

Lorenzo Chavez, 18, from Guadalupita, New Mexico, is a student attending Luna Community College who says being in Washington is crucial for him, because the Colorado river provides water to New Mexico.

“It’s important to me because my family pretty much revolves around the Colorado River,” says Ian Dale, a 16-year-old from Somerton, Arizona. “My grandparents actually came here through the Bracero Program, and they depended on the river for our agriculture. The message I want to send to Congress is we must raise awareness so we can get help for the river.”

He explains the supply of water from the river is much lower than the demand, which is causing the river to dry out.

“We are just looking at conserving water and finding a way to preserve the water for future generations,” says Dale.

Nuestro Rio youth ambassadors meeting with U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on September 30, 2013. (Courtesy Nuestro Rio)

Nuestro Rio youth ambassadors meeting with U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on September 30, 2013. (Courtesy Nuestro Rio)

Rocsana Contreras, 15, from Denver, Colorado, and Manuel Chavez, 17 from Taos, New Mexico, shared the concern that the river is a water resource for everyone, and it must be preserved.

“The Colorado River is small,” says Rosalia Salazar, 17 from Las Vegas, Nevada. “After going on the trip for six days, I was able to see the ring around the canyon — it used to be high but now it’s so low. It provides water for 36 million in the southwestern U.S. — for drinking, energy, basically for everything.”

Salazar, a student at Veterans Tribute Career & Technical Academy, adds that as a group, they would like to see more local state and federal advocacy for the Colorado River and other rivers. She says by conserving the river from ranching and farming and municipalities, it will be able to flow healthy again.

“It’s very important to us, because between 30 and 50 years from now Nevada is not going to have enough water, and we’re going to be in a terrible state. We need to do something before it gets to that point,” says Salazar. “My favorite part of the trip was experiencing the river as a living organism. I realized if you treat the river as it’s supposed to be treated, it will take care of you.”

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