WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Apr. 16, President Trump signed a law authorizing the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) to protect the Colorado River, following the bill’s passage through Congress with bipartisan support. The law, which follows years of negotiations and effort among the seven Colorado River basin states — California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming — reduces each state’s river use as a way to protect against catastrophic water shortages in Lake Mead. Now, that the DCP has been signed into law, the U.S. and Mexico will have approximately 100 days to work on their international version of the DCP, called the Binational Water Scarcity Plan, also known as Minute 323. Depending on water levels in August of 2019, Mexico may have to conserve 41,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead next year.
“The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the southwest – its water sustains over 36 million people, including one-third of the nation’s Latinos,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “The Colorado River is an integral part of our heritage and way of life, and by taking action now we can make strides in ensuring that future generations can continue to benefit from this tremendous resource.”
To highlight the importance of protecting the Colorado River and the need to engage Latino and diverse communities in conservation, Hispanic Access Foundation held a training with 20 Latino faith leaders from Por La Creación Faith-based Alliance to discuss the future of the Colorado River and the importance of developing environmental stewards. Following the training, the faith leaders also toured the Grand Canyon and explored how the protection of our national parks is crucial to our diverse cultural heritage.
“Latinos have an important voice in the protection of our public lands and waters. We have a moral responsibility to protect God’s creation — preserving the mountains, rivers, deserts and other breathtaking landscapes of our nation,” said Pastor Jorge Apodaca, from Grace to the Nations (Tucson, AZ). “Protecting the Colorado River is crucial not only to the majority of local economies in the area, but also to the spiritual well-being of our community.”
The widely regarded Colorado College’s 2019 Conservation in the West poll found that 82 percent of Arizona’s voters believe that it is important for states to use funds to protect and restore the health of rivers, lakes and streams. In addition, 87 percent of Arizonans and 73 percent of Latino voters in the West viewed the low levels of water in rivers as a serious problem.
“With climate change contributing to rising temperatures and drier climates in the West, we must build a future that includes healthy rivers,” said Pastor Victor Venalonzo, from Iglesia Betania (Yuma, AZ). “Now, more than ever we need to take immediate steps to improve water management, otherwise the impacts to the community, environment, economy and our way of life will be severe.”
Drought has gripped the Colorado River since 2000 and flows have dropped by more than 19 percent over the same period. It is estimated that by the end of the century one third of the river’s water supply could disappear. The goal of the DCP is to prevent even deeper cutbacks in the future supply available to the river states and set up a future of more sustainable water use in the Colorado River Basin. With ongoing collaboration and renewed commitment, all stakeholders have the opportunity to safeguard the future of the lives and livelihoods that depend on the Colorado River.