Map of Jalisco ->
_My father retired from the United States Army after twenty-two
years of service and the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He
survived his time in Europe during World War II plus a few other
"scrapes" and some of my growing up was done in Europe. 1958
found dad returning home from Vietnam, after working for the
Vinnel Corporation for a year. He informed us we were moving
again. This time to Mexico.
_The idea for The Teanaway River Biosphere Project actually
formed long ago in that far away place called Ajijic, on Lake
Chapala, in a much happier time.
_Lake Chapala is roughly 70 kilometers (about 40 miles) long and
roughly 17 kilometers (about 10 miles) wide. In the 1950's there
was much to accomplish and I had never even heard of the
_There were hand-crafted fishing boats that needed to be
rowed all over the lake to find the "best" places to fish. There
were horses to be ridden and more to my size at the time, there
were burro's to be ridden also. There were banana trees and
mountains in my back yard that needed climbing and the dust I
collected was easily washed away simply by running downhill on
my burro and splashing into the lake. Then there were all those
bugs to catch! And there were slingshots to make too.
_There was "family" and "togetherness" and wonderful things
to eat for dinner...and there was lots of conversation. Not a day
went by that we did not learn something new...simply because
we were all curious. We went almost everywhere together and
searched out new things. We were a family that loved life and
_My sister went to school in Guadalajara. I went to a school just
up the street and did my best to learn Spanish. I had to to
survive. Life could be wonderful. Life could also be a punch in
the nose! More than once.
_Today, Lago de Chapala is dying. A gigantic ecosystem, the
River Lerma-Lake Chapala drainage basin, which includes more
than 8 million people, 3,500 diverse industries, 750,000 hectares
of irrigated farmland and 14 cities with populations in excess of
100,000. At the western extremity of the system, Lake Chapala
forms the link to the Santiago River which drains to the Pacific
_The health of any ecosystem is determined by the health of
each of its components. Lake Chapala is ailing and exemplifies
all that is going wrong in the Lerma-Chapala basin as a whole.
Twice this century, the lake has come perilously close to drying
up completely. The first crisis was in the 1950s; the second,
which still continues, began in 1980. On several occasions, not
only has the River Lerma ceased to flow, but the lake shoreline
has receded so far that tourists wanting a boat ride have had to
board a taxi, just to get from the pier to the boats!
_A decreased volume of water has brought adverse changes in
depth, temperature gradients, transparency, the area of
wetlands and the lake's ability to recover from drought. The lake
declined because insufficient water remained in the Lerma to
adequately feed the lake.
_About 20 per cent of the water extracted from the Lerma is
piped to major cities including Mexico City. Most of the
remainder is used for irrigation; more than 10,000 dams and
dikes now exist along the Lerma and its tributaries. Inefficient,
wasteful irrigation techniques are therefore responsible for the
_The lake is being poisoned by the Lerma. People are forcing
the Lerma to ingest toxins from agriculture (chemical fertilizers,
pesticides and porcine manure), industry (heavy metals) and
inadequately treated sewage and domestic wastewater. A
recent study of the discharges of nine of the water treatment
plants emptying directly into the lake found phosphorus levels
74 times higher than the USEPA norm.
_The lake's future does not look too promising. As a developing
country, Mexico, with half its population under 18 years old and
just emerging from its latest economic crisis, faces many
demands on its resources. The Lerma-Chapala basin, due to its
complexity and level of industrialization, falls outside Mexico's
existing network of biosphere reserves, national parks and
other conservation areas.
_Given the circumstances, it would be socially irresponsible
and naive to suggest "protecting" or "conserving" Lake
Chapala without first trying to ensure improved living standards
for all the basin's 8 million inhabitants. This number is growing
rapidly. Not only have the cities of the Lerma basin grown at 2.5
per cent per year since 1980 but, at the same time, this region,
more than any other in Mexico, has exported its "surplus" labor
to the U.S.
_In the 1980s, Canadian diplomatic initiatives helped to
convince Mexico to take immediate action to safeguard the
monarch butterfly's overwintering fir-forest habitats in
Michoacán. The resulting international project correctly
assumed that existing inhabitants would play an important part
in preserving the biodiversity of their own landscape. A dying
lake may not be as photogenic as a monarch butterfly, but Lake
Chapala is vital to the people and wildlife of all three North
Things to do?
1. The improved training of specialists, by postgraduate
academic exchanges and by close collaboration with the
various official dependencies concerned with water and health
issues and policy.
2. Identification of contaminants and other elements affecting
water quality and studies of their precise mode of operation.
3. Identification of the principal point and non-point sources of
contamination in the basin.
4. An epidemiological study to identify public health problems in
5. A study of the relationships between flora and fauna and the
levels of water contamination.
6. The development of the appropriate technology to bring point
source discharges inside international norms.
7. The establishing of rehabilitation strategies to reduce
non-point sources of contamination, including zoning measures
and the use of appropriate techniques of irrigation.
8. Participation in programs to resolve public health problems
linked to water quality.
1. Bibliographic analysis, and compilation of a data bank
containing information already collected by the National Water
Commission and other government agencies.
2. Analysis of the data bank using Geographic Information
Systems and Environment Canada's RAISON program.
3. Extensive long-term field monitoring of water, sediment,
aquatic weed and fish quality parameters.
4. Identification and quantification of biological nutrients,
especially phosphorus and nitrogen in all their forms.
5. Identification and quantification of pesticides commonly used
in the basin.
6. Measurement of heavy metal and pesticide levels in fish.
7. An epidemiological study of the principal health problems in
the Chapala region, reviewing official health statistics,
conducting questionnaire surveys and evaluating possible risk
8. Analysis of results and formulation of recommendations.
_So!? You ask why you just read a long story about a dying lake
in a far away place? Because that place effects AT LEAST three
large countries. Because the people who live there, find that to
survive, they need to head north to the U.S., or to Canada, to
make a living! Because creatures that Canadians enjoy during
the summer, live in that far away place in Mexico during the
winter, near a dying lake. A place where I lived as a child with my
family and remember with fond memories.
_People elsewhere are looking after "my" lake now. I have been
back to visit several times and am always amazed at the
differences I see there.
_Being Native American, my "path" has lead me many places
around the world. One place on my "path" was the Teanaway
_"Teanaway", from a Native American word..."Tien-ne-winess",
which means "the place of fish and berries".
_I adopted "the place of fish and berries" as my own. A place
where I feel "at home". A place where I feel "safe". A place I
could take care of and still share with anyone who wishes to
visit. A place where I could talk with "The Great Spirit" and He
with me. Some of you call him God. Some Jehovah. Some Allah.
Some do not believe in anything greater than themselves and
have no "faith" at all even though they say they do. Too bad!
Because I have seen too many mysterious wonders in this
world along my "path" not to believe in "The Great Spirit" and to
have faith in Him.
_Now that The Great Spirit has lead me to "my" river, I would
hate to leave "my" river to children of the future who would
wonder why nobody cared about a river they never heard of!
I find that to be irresponsible!
_This Project affects us all no matter where we live. No matter
how much we believe. No matter how much we care. No matter
what we think!
_The Project took it's "first steps" in 1997. The "rules" were
about to change, again, and "now" was the time to move. 1998
saw the Project begin in earnest. May of 1999 the Proposal was
delivered to the "authorities" both in the United States and
overseas. Governmental and personal politics would play a very
large part in this play called "The Teanaway River Biosphere
Project". Please see the "CONTACT US" page and the original
Proposal for more information.
_I found it necessary to form my own "Adopt-A-River" attitude
from the time I discovered the Teanaway River area and it's
watershed years ago. I told myself that I would never let "my"
river become another Lago de Chapala, ruined by people who
do not care when there are so many people out there who do
care. Not only does the Project promote "Community Building",
but this Project could even help people in Ajijic, Jalisco,
Mexico, amongst other places, who have never even heard of
the Teanaway River, live a better life. Imagine that!!!
_I cannot start at the mouth of the Columbia River and work my
way upstream to the Teanaway like the salmon do so I decided
that I would adopt "my" river and work from the top, down, to
help the salmon when they arrive each year. Then the off-spring
of those salmon would have a greater chance to "start" a life of
their own. A "helping hand" as it were.
_There are many "variables" in saving one "thing" such as
salmon. All "things" in an area need to be saved to be able to
save "any". It is a huge task and I cannot do it alone, or I would.
_I would like to see others "adopt" a river or a lake or a place in
their area, or even a portion of a river or a lake. That would
make this job much easier, and one day, someone may be kind
enough to say about me...that I "cared" and that I did something
along my "path" that was good. That would make me happy.
Because one day, someone else will need to carry-on for me, for
I only walk in the footsteps of our ancestors and I wish to leave
this earth at least as good as I found it. Better if I can.
_Please help me save a watershed for ourselves and for our
children and the Project will help others to help save
themselves! (Please see... "Certificates" and "BYLAWS" near
the top of this page.) There is much work to be done and I would
appreciate your help in saving, as well as sharing, a small part
of Mother Earth, created by The Great Spirit, saved by
ourselves, for ourselves. A different type of movement to save
our wild places and still enjoy them. Mother Earth deserves
Thank you, from a Native American. John A. Louraine.
_"I'll never reach my destination, if I never try,
_ so I will sail my vessel, till the river runs dry."
_"The River" - Garth Brooks.
....The Teanaway River Biosphere Project is a 501(c)(3)
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Lago de Chapala