By Pete McBride
On an unusual Monday in March in the hamlet of San Luis Río Colorado, in the Mexican state of Sonora, hundreds of people gathered below a bridge that spans the dry channel of the Colorado River. The polka-beat of Ranchero music mixed with the sound of laughter across the sandy basin. It was a party of all ages and everyone waited for the guest of honor: agua.
Editor's note: In 2011, Patagonia's environmental campaign, Our Common Waters, explored the need to balance human water needs with those of animals and plants. One of the most powerful stories to come out of that campaign was Pete McBride traveling the length of the Colorado River in his short film, Chasing Water. Today, we're pleased to share a follow-up story from Pete.
Located 23 miles downstream of Morelos Dam—the last dam on the Colorado—San Luis is where the river finally leaves the border behind and journeys into mainland Mexico. From here, the riverbed winds 80 some miles (148 kms) to the Sea of Cortez. But for nearly two decades, water has rarely escaped the sealed downstream gates of the dam. Instead, Mexico's entire Colorado River allocation turns west—diverted into the giant, concrete irrigation Reforma Canal so we can eat baby spinach in the winter. What is left below is a river of sand.