Llew Mejia/Quartz

This nine-part collaboration between the Texas Observer and Quartz explores the complexities of border water in a hotter, drier world.

The Rio Grande Valley of Texas is one of the fastest-growing places in the United States. Already hot and arid, and growing hotter, the booming, heavily Latino region depends almost entirely on the shriveling Rio Grande for water. Considered one of the most endangered rivers in North America, the Rio Grande provides drinking and irrigation water to 6 million people and 2 million acres of farmland on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border. Droughts and heat waves in the Valley are becoming more intense, exacerbating water scarcity.

Despite opinion surveys showing that Valley residents are deeply concerned about how climate change is affecting them, local and state officials are paying little heed to their constituents. According to a 2013 federal study (pdf), even before accounting for climate change the region is expected to run a “staggering” water supply shortage of almost 600,000 acre-feet in 2060. At the same time, some Texas border cities have been at the forefront of water conservation, and the US and Mexico have found ways to cooperate on protecting the Rio Grande.

Staff writer Naveena Sadasivam discusses the project on Texas Standard:


Part 1

Climate Change, the Rio Grande and Border Water

In a warming world, the fight for water can push nations apart—or bring them together.

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Part 2

Fenced in, Flooded Out

The Texas-Mexico border wall comes with a dangerous, costly side effect: flooding.

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Part 3

Endangered River, Endangered Species

Trump’s border wall could decimate these rare species.

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Part 4

Aquifers: Underground and Unaccounted

Out of sight, out of water: the U.S. and Mexico have only just begun to grapple with the aquifers they share.

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Part 5

Cities vs. Agriculture

Farmers and cities in the Rio Grande Valley are in a tug of war to control the river’s dwindling supplies.

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Part 6

The Making of the ‘Magic Valley’

How Anglos came to control agriculture in the heavily Latino Rio Grande Valley.

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Part 7

The Coming Megadrought

The next megadrought in the American Southwest may be right around the corner.

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Part 8

Beyond Dams and Reservoirs

Dams and reservoirs won’t save us. This is the new future of water infrastructure.

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Part 9

El Paso’s Conservation Success Story

Dams and reservoirs won’t save us. This is the new future of water infrastructure.

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Part of the reporting for this project was supported with a collaborative reporting grant from the Center for Cooperative Media.

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