Arroyo Colorado

May 18, 2006

Dear Arroyo Partners,

Our social marketing consultants completed the market survey polling awareness levels, attitudes, and beliefs concerning the pollutions issues associated with the Arroyo Colorado. Two hundred and fifty (250) telephone interviews were conducted between March 23 through 29, 2006, 83% of the interviews were completed in Spanish and 17% in English. One of the key findings is that only 17% of Valley residents know that their source of tap water comes from the Rio Grande (note a few cities have wells and a very small percentage could come from groundwater) and only 2% believe that their drain or wastewater goes into the Arroyo Colorado and into the Laguna Madre (a narrow area of land along the Rio Grande drains to the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico in this region). The good news is that 94% of the people polled believe that a "clean environment" is "very important". More good news is that of the people polled, over 75% are willing to do their part to help improve the quality of water in the Arroyo Colorado and 77% are interested in learning more about the Arroyo Colorado and its importance to the Valley. The survey also found that television, newspaper, and direct mail are the top sources of information for Valley residents.

The top recommendation is to build awareness of the current pollution issues associated with the Arroyo Colorado and that the message should be positive and motivate people to action by showing how the combined efforts of a family and a community can improve water quality and the natural environment. Speaking of current pollution issues, see the attached graphs for most recent monitoring results of dissolved oxygen at four sites in the Arroyo Colorado.

As you know, the main reason we are taking action to draft and implement the watershed protection plan is because a portion of the Arroyo Colorado (the upper part of the Tidal Segment) does not always meet the State water quality standard for dissolved oxygen (DO). The Tidal Segment of the Arroyo Colorado has a high aquatic use standard that requires DO to average at least 4.0 mg/l over a 24-hours with a 24-hour minimum of 3.0 mg/l ninety percent (90%) of the time. The graphs show the 24-hour maximum, minimum, and average (point in the middle of the vertical line) for four sampling stations. The main station to look at is sampling site 13072 at the Rio Hondo Bridge which is in the middle of the "zone of impairment". Based on the data collected 1998 through 2005, the 24-hour average was met 82% of the time and the 24-hour minimum met 64% of the time. This is part of what we are up against. The Arroyo Colorado also does not meet the contact recreation standard for fecal coliform bacteria in the Above Tidal Segment of the Arroyo Colorado.

Again, the occurrence of low dissolved oxygen in the Arroyo Colorado is caused by the additions of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, and ammonia) and sediments, and the physical characteristics of the stream itself. The basic plan is to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment, restore and improved habitat within the Arroyo Colorado watershed, and minimize soil erosion in the Arroyo Colorado and the drainage ditches within the watershed. More good news is that a large segment of our agricultural community and our municipalities and public utilities are already taking and/or planning action to improve the quality of water entering the Arroyo Colorado.

The work group leaders from the Habitat Restoration, Agriculture issues, and Wastewater Infrastructure are doing the final edits on those portions the plan and our consultants for the Outreach and Education Work Group is preparing the final report of their work and suggested long-term plan for outreach and education. I am working on the integrated plan and will present what I have completed at the upcoming Steering Committee Meeting schedule for next Thursday May 25, 2006, 6 pm to 9 pm, in the Rio Red Classroom of the Citrus Center in Weslaco. This is an important meeting as part of what we will be doing is prioritizing projects for funding. We will also have some guest presenters on the water quality monitoring component of the plan and the urban storm water portion of the plan.

Hope you can attend the meeting,

Laura