Stop and Appreciate El Paso

Ruben L. Reyes, El Paso Metro

One Saturday morning on my way to far-east El Paso I thought about our beautiful Rio Grande and the life that it supports. Having been raised only inches from the Border Highway, I would often taking long walks on summer days with my friends fishing or  hunting on the banks of the Rio Grande.

I remember many a sunny afternoon when the waterfowl were plentiful.  It seems so long ago but it was only 23 years ago. I remember how beautiful the river bank was and how often we would try as hard as we could to aim and shoot at the water fowl with stones.  But we never quite hit the mark. It was these memories that reminded me of how close my life has always been to water and yet I realize that I never quite appreciated the life, and beauty that came with it.

Until I met Pete Hernandez, an EPISO (El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization) leader, I had never considered how blessed I was that my only concern when I turn on the faucet is whether I want hot or cold water and how much of it. I do not worry whether it is clean or not. I also am not too concerned whether it will come out or not, so long as my bill has been paid. I had never realized what it would be like to have to treck a distance, pull some water, purify it, and then drink it. Some people, after working for over 20 years, are now doing the exact same thing thanks to a great deal of effort.

I met Jose Escobedo who works with the El Paso Diocese and who deals with water issues.  He had plenty of information pertaining to our bolsons of water beneath us and the expectancy of that supply. I was not too surprised to hear the figure of about 25 years, but was stunned to hear as little as 3 years for our neighbors to the south. I am still shocked by the calm that this information leaves people with.

I listened to some stories from some residents in College Park as well as the Sparks colonias; their stories to brought tears to my eyes. Pete told me of how organizing and reaching out to the community made a difference to some while others simply waited. It takes action. It takes passion.

I see that people coming together can make a difference and it does not always have to be in protest. Simply cleaning the neighborhood would be a good idea to get out and finally meet your neighbor. In a city with so little water I sometimes wonder how the city would do on a water usage audit. I have often seen watering on a rainy day at many of our cities municipal parks and recreational areas, not to mention office buildings where there is little if anything to water.

I am not too sure how many El Pasoans would feel about tighter water restrictions to preserve this precious resource. I am fully aware that too many of us take water and its future availability for granted. I, for one, am no longer of that frame of mind.

I now look at the trickle that is our Rio Grande and I am sure that many who come by probably ask themselves why “Grande?” The cement lined canal that has replaced our river is a reminder of how many things that were once very beautiful are made ugly with too much human intervention and development. I no longer can see the waterfowl nor do I even get to walk the banks of the river in the heart of the city.

It is important that we do not forget that things worth having are definitely worth fighting for. Our water is a non-renewable resource that we could use to our advantage. Water in the colonias is a serious issue, and one that needs more attention than this one page can do justice to.

Because of treaties that have been signed there are many facets to the problem that need to be understood before making any judgment on the issue. Some of the treaties affect who gets water, how much, where and who can use it.

Understanding our relationship with our neighbors both to the north and south will better prepare us for the reality of the future. Pete and Jose made an impact on me that Saturday morning. It made me think and has motivated me to act. I no longer take 5 minute showers, I take 3 minutes. I turn off the water when I am brushing my teeth while not rinsing. I do not mind having a desert yard on my block.  One small step would be for everyone to share their ideas on conserving water.  Send them in.  Let’s do something together.  It may be a symbolic beginning but we are the ones to find the solution.