The Rio Grande flows from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. Vestiges of the region's earliest inhabitants can be found in pictographs in caves along the river, and the Spanish presence in the region dates to 1520.
The river forms the boundary between Mexico and the United States, and both sides of the border have experienced rapid population growth in recent years. Thirty-two major cities with an estimated 9 million people are on or near the river, including El Paso and Laredo. The Texas population is projected to almost double within the next 15 years, while the population along the Mexican side may double or triple during that time.
The economy of the region is changing rapidly, spurred in part by free trade. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has fueled a manufacturing boom on the Mexican side of the river, and trade between Mexico and Texas is a key part of the regional economy. Outside metropolitan areas, livestock ranching and other agricultural uses predominate. Eighty percent of Texas' share of Rio Grande water is devoted to agriculture.
Although water quality has suffered in recent years, the lower Rio Grande Valley remains one of the most biologically diverse regions in the United States. Bird and waterfowl sanctuaries in the region draw visitors from the around the world.
Community Action Plan
The Consortium of the Rio Grande (CoRio) represents 25 cities, seven counties, and numerous other jurisdictions along the river. The action plan will focus on creating partnerships between local, state and federal entities to assess water needs; support voluntary environmental, economic and cultural initiatives; address bi-lateral issues; and protect individual property rights. CoRio will work with local communities to improve cooperation and coordination. It will also identify and access technical and financial resources.
The American Heritage River designation includes the cities of El Paso, Laredo and Brownsville, TX; Big Bend National Park; Amistad National Recreation Area; Falcon Reservoir; and Atastosa Wildlife Preserve.
Diane Copelin/ David Austin, Office of Congressman Silvestre Reyes (202) 225-4831