The BJ Bishop Wetland in Presidio, Texas, lies between a water treatment plant and the Rio Grande. The man-made wetland is filled with treated waste water from the plant. Construction is funded by Congress. A bipartisan bill before Congress proposes to extend funding for wetland construction. (Lorne Matalon)
PRESIDIO, Texas — A man-made wetland is now under construction on the Rio Grande, the first on the Texas-Mexico border.
Terry Bishop stands beside the wetland named for his father, BJ Bishop. The younger Bishop plans to replicate this man-made wetland on a nearby ancient floodplain where the Rio Grande joins the Rio Conchos at Ojinaga, Chihuahua. (Lorne Matalon)
And this new wetland will be the first on the Rio Grande to use treated wastewater to restore habitat. This comes as Congress is considering a bipartisan bill to extend funding for the construction of wetlands.
The Rio Grande has lost huge swaths of bird and wildlife habitat because water has been diverted for farming and human consumption and the population of the Southwest has grown exponentially.
The new man-made wetland leverages geography and a blend of private and federal funding.
Under a longstanding treaty, the Colorado River irrigates 3 million acres of farmland and supplies water to 30 million people in the United States and Mexico. Between population growth and a decade long drought, the Colorado is under such stress that Western states – desperate to maintain water supplies – want to purify agricultural runoff currently diverted into Mexico. But as The World’s Lorne Matalon reports, Mexico covets that water, because it has given birth to a productive wetland.
Columns of moist air hover above still water in the Cienega de Santa Clara, mirroring the desert sky. The wetland is an oasis in dry northern Mexico, a haven for birds and fish, some endangered.
“The Cienega is the most important wetland in the Colorado River delta.”
Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz; “I’m not thinking about the threats. I think about what needs to be done in my city and I do it.”
Juarez, Mexico, a stone’s throw from El Paso, Texas represents an important business center for the United States, supplying dozens of U.S. companies with auto parts, electronics and other manufactured goods. But the city is under siege, a fact acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which is crafting contingency plans to send the National Guard to the border if conditions deteriorate further.
Homeland Security’s Operations Director told Congress last week that National Guard troops will be sent to the border only as a “last resort” to combat threats from Mexico’s drug cartels. The cartels have publicly targeted politicians and police from the federal to the local level.
Take Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz. He now travels in an armed convoy whenever he leaves City Hall.