Sustainable Agricultural Water Conservation in the Rio Grande Basin
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The transboundary watershed of the Rio Grande river is a region with enormous potential for recreational river program development. However, for most Laredo residents, the Rio Grande River is a place to avoid. Any opportunities to advance developments in recreation activities are often hampered by media coverage of illegal activities and environmental degradation in the basin. The fewer people who enjoy the river, the less likely it is to be understood and protected. In order to increase local concern for the river, the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment (Meadows Center) has completed a study that both provides an explanation for the general lack of public concern for watershed health and explores options for sustainable agricultural water conservation in the Rio Grande Basin. This report includes the following elements:
- an assessment of the base-line attitudes of the local population about recreation on the Lower Rio Grande;
- outdoor-activity oriented teaching models;
- festival planning guidance; and
- groundwater activities for corporate investment in future binational river festivals.
Analysis of these elements will help residents of both countries understand, appreciate, and respect their greatest natural resource.
One goal of this project is to compile information for developing recreational and educational programs in order to increase the local estimation of the river in both community residents and tourists. Curricula for experential river-based programs was researched and compiled for this project, as were educational and informational river related resources. These materials include watershed and river educational programs, handouts, and other materials. Findings were integrated into a river festival planning guide and toolbox.
In order to determine the Laredo community’s baseline attitudes and perceptions of Rio Grande recreation, a 10-question survey was administered both online through email and partner websites and to focus groups in an interactive setting. A total of 948 people completed the 10-question survey over a 90 day period. Of those who responded, 82% stated that they would not endorse recreational activities on the Rio Grande. When asked during the focus groups, “what can people do around here for fun,” river recreation never was mentioned. The most common reasons (42%) given by participants who never engage in Rio Grande recreation were either a “lack of access” or the participant “never learned [to play one of various river-related sports]”. A combined 53% of the population surveyed either had “no reservations” or was neutral to the idea of recreation on the Rio Grande. All of these findings confirm that opportunities existence for reforming public opinion in communities along the Lower Rio Grande through creation of new access points; outdoor environmental educational programs and activities; and providing a venue for recreation based activities, such as festivals.