Grande de Santiago River

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Río Grande de Santiago
Rio Santiago.jpg
Country  Mexico
Basin features
Main source Lake Chapala
River mouth Pacific Ocean at San Blas / Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit
Basin size 136,628 square kilometres (52,752 sq mi)[1]
Physical characteristics
Length 433 km (269 mi)
  • Average rate:
    Average: 320 cubic metres per second (11,000 cu ft/s)
    Maximum: 2,113 cubic metres per second (74,600 cu ft/s)
    Minimum: 29.5 cubic metres per second (1,040 cu ft/s)

The Río Grande de Santiago is one of the longest rivers in Mexico, measuring up 433 km (269 mi) long. The river begins at Lake Chapala and continues roughly north-west through the Sierra Madre Occidental, receiving the Verde, Juchipila, Bolaños, and other tributaries. At La Yesca, the La Yesca Dam was completed in 2012 and the El Cajón Dam was completed downstream in 2007. Below El Cajón, the Aguamilpa Dam was completed in 1993, creating a reservoir covering a large part of the territory of the municipality of El Nayar in Nayarit. From Aguamilpa, the river descends to the coastal lowlands, passing by Santiago Ixcuintla and empties into the Pacific Ocean, 16 km (10 mi) northwest of San Blas, in Nayarit. The river is viewed by some sources as a continuation of the Lerma River, which flows into Lake Chapala.

Mexico possesses a small percentage of the world’s freshwater reserve, 0.1%. According to an article named Water use (and abuse) and its effects on the crater-lake Valle de Santiago, Mexico “most Mexican lakes are in an advanced state of desiccation or senescence, with volumes and surface area greatly reduced because of human activities” (page 145). Some examples of these damaging activities are wood cutting, inflow diversion for agriculture, groundwater over extraction, pollution and eutrophication. Together Rio Lerma Santiago is a little over 600 miles long, but alone Rio Santiago is reported to be 269 miles long. It is an extension of the Lerma River, which at 466 miles long it is one of Mexico’s longest rivers. The water begins in the Mexican Plateau in Mexico City. Then travels westward and goes through the Lerma River, and empties in Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara. From there the water flows southward through Rio Santiago and dissipates to the Pacific Ocean near San Blas, in Nayarit. According to an article named Impacts from contamination of the Santiago River on the well-being of the inhabitants of El Salto, Jalisco the river passes by “Ocotlán, Poncitlán, Atequiza, Atotonilquillo, Juanacatlán, ,El Salto, Tonalá among others” (Gonzalez and Hernandez, page 711). Less than 50 years ago the river was once a place to fish, bathe, and swim. It is now a river full of pollutants, with a smell that can only be described as worse than rotten eggs. This river is not the most polluted river ever but it is one of the worst polluted in Mexico. It doesn’t only hurt locals, but all of Mexico which rely on the river for water supply and food.

Up until the 1980s this river was a beautiful place to live and visit. Luz Moreno remembers when she was a little girl playing and swimming in the river. “Many tourists came not only from Mexico but from the US to see the falls (El Salto Falls)” Moreno says “which at one time… I am not sure if they still do… powered the factories”. Concepcion Garcia, who still lives near the river, also remembers a time when you could eat the fish from the river “People would fish and bring it home to cook and serve. I can’t imagine that happening anymore”. “It was probably until the 80s when we stopped playing in the river” Moreno says. That’s when Moreno claims that the river was rerouted to serve the bigger cities and stopped the flow in her own hometown. “The water stayed still and was not very deep… the factories made it worse by dumping all of their sewage water in. The water no longer flowed and cleaned itself it just sat there getting worse” Moreno remembers. On a bad day in Garcia’s home, with the wind blowing her way, you can smell what can only be described as rotten eggs caused by the river. “The smell is indescribable, but I know it’s because of the river” Garcia says. Locals also think that the river causes cancer. “I know that the river causes cancer. We didn’t have a problem before the river stopped flowing… All of the sudden the river stops flowing and then we have all of these problems with cancer among the locals” (Garcia). While no official studies have been done to connect cancer to living next to the river, the locals are convinced, and whenever someone gets cancer they blame it on the polluted river. According to Gonzalez and Hernandez the University of Guadalajara had conducted studies where they found “fecal coliform levels 110 times above the recommended limit and lead concentrations, zinc, ammonia and phosphate threatening animal and plant life” (page 712) which is partially the governments fault for not regulating the things dumped in the river. Locals would like their river back to its former glory, but that day seems very far away and most locals don’t know where to start.

Many people ask why this river is so polluted. It’s a combination of factory sewage dumping such as pulp and paper mills and leather processing plants. We can also blame this on petrochemical dumping and local farms that have dumped fertilizers and chemicals introduced by meat and dairy. If you look further most of the polluting is done by the big factories that have resided on both sides of the river, but some can also be blamed on locals. Farmers mostly have contributed to the contamination of their beloved river. In my opinion it all boils down to lack of education and regulations. Maybe if the Mexican government had put in more thought (and money) in to the future and cleaning of the river it wouldn’t be that as horrible as it is today. Many locals blame the factories “there were so many factories…they would make all kinds of things… Levis the jean company was once there, Hershey’s was there, I worked there for a while, and they would all dump into a river that didn’t flow” (Garcia). The thing that locals fail to realize is that they are also part of the problem. Not only do the locals work in these factories, the ones who don’t (farmers) also dump into the river. I am not saying that the factory workers should quit their factory jobs and not support their families, but to educate themselves on what they are doing for a living and how it effects the environment.

In February 2008 an eight-year-old boy, Miguel Angel Lopez Rocha, died after he fell into the river. Rocha fell near the El Salto Falls, where not that long ago tourists came from all over the world to see the falls. He died nineteen days after he fell into the river. One autopsy indicated heavy metal poison was the reason for his death. This even brought attention to one of Mexico’s worst environmental disasters. “When Miguel died, an invisible problem became visible” said Maria Gonzalez from the Mexican Institute for Community Development. After the unfortunate incident many locals organized a group called “A Leap of Life”. According to Gonzalez and Hernandez “this made it possible to carry out the Second National Assembly Environmentally Affected by the end of May 2009 in El Salto” (713). Their goal is to join the national movement that brings together communities and organizational. “They are struggling to defend their resources, the right to health and to a healthy environment” (Gonzalez and Hernandez, page 713). Since Gonzalez and Hernandez’s article was published in 2009, they didn’t get to mention that the National Commission for Human Health tried to declare the area of El Salto an Emergency Zone. They failed because the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources refused, he feared it would hurt the economy. Also, in the past decade the National Water Commission has not reported a single fine for illegal discharge of chemical waste into the river. When something of this magnitude happens you expect your government to help or regulate the problem, but instead it is up to the locals to try and convince the government to spend their money to save the river.

This environmental disaster not only effects humans, but animals as well. Just like all food chains there is always a predator and its prey. Whatever the prey eats, it will effects the predator. Rio Santiago used to be a river thriving with fish. These fish were then eaten by other animals or by humans. If the fish are contaminated then the predators (humans and other animals) are most likely going to be negatively affected. “In the 1980s, when things started to get bad, people stopped fishing, and had to find some other way to find food. A tradition that had been passed down from generation to generation got tossed away after a couple of years” (Garcia). When one part of the food chain goes away the system has to find a new way to arrange itself to satisfy everyone.

Many things contributed to the pollution in Rio Santiago. Some say it is big corporate factories and businesses that should clean it up because it was their fault. Others say it was the locals who contaminated the lake. The thing is that whatever way the river got contaminated, the fact of the matter is that it needs to be cleaned up, and people need to be educated on how to properly dispose of their waste. It is also up to the government to constantly regulate and punish anyone who violates the regulations. The fact of the matter is that whichever way the river got contaminated in the first place it is everyone’s job to help clean up and to respect what mother nature has given us, because we might not get another chance. This not only goes for Rio Santiago, but for all polluted areas.

[3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rio Grande de Santiago Watershed". Watersheds of the World: North and Central America. World Resources Institute – EarthTrends. 2006. Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  2. ^ "Santiago Discharge near El Capomal". River Discharge Database. Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. 1965–1981. Archived from the original on 2010-06-14. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  3. ^ Alcocer, Javier, Elva Escobar, and Alfonso Lugo. "Water Use (And Abuse) and Its Effects on the Crater‐lakes of Valle De Santiago, Mexico." Lakes & Reservoirs: Research & Management, 5.3 (2000): 145-149.
  4. ^ Gonzalez, Paulina Martinez, and Eduardo Hernandez. "Impacts from Contamination of the Santiago River on the Well-being of the Inhabitants of El Salto, Jalisco /Impactos De La Contaminacion Del Rio Santiago En El Bienestar De Los Habitantes De El Salto, Jalisco." Espacio Abierto: Cuaderno Venezolano De Sociologia, 18.4 (2009): 709.
  5. ^ Gómez-Balandra, María Antonieta, Edmundo Díaz-Pardo, and Altagracia Gutiérrez-Hernández. "Composición De La Comunidad íctica De La Cuenca Del Río Santiago, México, Durante Su Desarrollo Hidráulico Fish Community Composition of the Santiago River Basin, Mexico, During Its Hydraulic Development." Hidrobiológica, 22.1 (2012): 62-78.
  6. ^ Luz, Moreno. Personal interview. 13 Dec. 2015
  7. ^ Concepcion, Garcia. Personal interview. 27 Nov. 2015

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 21°36′N 105°26′W / 21.600°N 105.433°W / 21.600; -105.433