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Somos Agua/We Are Water is an interdisciplinary artist-led collective focused on finding innovative approaches to solving and making visible water scarcity problems in the Paso del Norte region. Through workshops and community engagement events at key locations relevant to water usage, we develop bilingual performances and media projects involving artists, scientists, engineers, and members of the community.




Equal access to water for all living beings in the Paso del Norte Region




The main goals of the collective are to sensitize and learn from participants about the sacredness of water and its vital role in the earth’s survival and to create new opportunities for finding ways to cooperate between urban, rural and agricultural water users on both sides of the border.



Sandra Paola López Ramírez is an interdisciplinary dancemaker, cultural organizer, improviser and mother. She was born and raised in the luscious Andes mountains in what is currently known as Bogotá, Colombia and her relationship to the Andean landscape, the music and dances from Afro and indigenous peoples in this territory and her mixed heritage deeply influences her artistic work and activism. Sandra Paola now lives in the Chihuahuan desert straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, another beautiful and complex region that has shaped her understanding of the connection between body, ancestral memory and land. In her decades of work, she has developed her practice to radically integrate her creative process and her community organizing efforts creating small and large scale works that activate public spaces, non-traditional and formal performance venues, and natural landscapes. Her commitment to transformation and healing is mostly manifested in the work of the Institute for Improvisation and Social Action (ImprovISA), an organization that she co-founded and directs. Sandra Paola holds a M.F.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts with a concentration on Performance Creation from Goddard College and is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at El Paso.



Melissa Melpignano is a dance & performance practitioner, scholar, and facilitator invested in exploring how the performing arts can enhance livability and collective responsibility in border areas, contested sites, and conflict zones. She works as Assistant Professor of Instruction and Director of the Dance Program in the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at El Paso. Melissa is a co-founder of the interdisciplinary, artist-led research group Somos Agua/We Are Water. Her scholarship appears on The Dancer-Citizen, Dance Research Journal, 50 Contemporary Choreographers, The Oxford Handbook of Jewishness and Dance​, among others. Her work as a performer, choreographer, and dramaturg across sites of performance has been shared in the U.S., Europe, Mexico, and the Middle East. Melissa has a PhD in Culture & Performance from UCLA and is a recipient of the Selma Jeanne Cohen Award from the Society of Dance History Scholars.



Chris Reyman is a jazz and improvising pianist and composer with a special interest in interdisciplinary collaboration. Over the past 20 years, he has consistently sought a progressive approach to jazz performance by blurring the boundaries between composed and improvised music, challenging conventional aesthetics and performance practice. He is committed to presenting unconventional performances in geographically isolated areas where work of this nature is virtually non-existent and has been awarded Community Arts Project grants for the past 5 years from the El Paso Museum and Cultural Affairs department. Chris Reyman is the co-founder of the Institute for Improvisation and Social Action, an organization that empowers communities in the U.S.-Mexico border through improvisation and performance. He is an Associate Professor of Piano at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he works with students on creative music practices through performance, composition, and collaborative music making.



John Sproul has been with CERM since December 1998 and oversees management of Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, a 372-acre City of El Paso park next to the Rio Grande in El Paso’s Mission Valley.  UTEP assumed management responsibility for this site in November 1996 under a long-term agreement with the City.  At the park, UTEP and its partners are working to restore, over time, a meaningful example of the mix of native plant and animal communities historically found in the river valley.  John’s training is in biochemistry (A.B., U. California-Berkeley, 1972) and wildlife ecology (M.S., U. Wisconsin-Madison, 1975).  He is a Certified Wildlife Biologist with particular interests in restoration ecology, conservation biology and avian ecology. 



Jess Tolbert is a contemporary studio jeweler, visual artist, and Assistant Professor of Art and Head of the Jewelry + Metals program at the University of Texas at El Paso. She received her MFA from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and her BFA from Texas State University, San Marcos, both with a focus in jewelry and metalsmithing. Jess’ work is recognized nationally and internationally and has been selected to exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, France, Brooklyn Metal Works, Beijing Design Week, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and the Society for Contemporary Craft to name a few. She has participated in multiple artist residencies including a yearlong appointment at the Southwest School of Art, Haystack Mountain School of Craft’s Open Studio, and Arrowmont’s Pentaculum. Jess has been selected for numerous prestigious awards including the Preziosa Young 2020 award based in Florence, Italy, and as a Finalist for the Loewe Craft Prize 2020. She is a co-founder of the curatorial group Secret Identity Projects, which has curated exhibitions for Munich Jewelry Week, the Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference, New York City Jewelry Week, as well as the Rubin Center for Visual Arts. Jess’ work is represented by Gallery Loupe (Montclair, NJ) and Gallery 2052 (Chicago, IL).



Sergio D. Samaniego was recruited by the Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM) in September 2020 and serves as the Groundskeeper of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park. His focus is to help establish and conserve native floral and faunal communities historically found along the river valley. Being born and raised in El Paso TX, he developed a great love and appreciation for desert ecosystems especially the Chihuahuan desert. As a graduate student, he worked on a project dealing with the assessment of invertebrate diversity in desert wetlands through sediment rehydration and amplicon sequencing which opened his eyes to the fascinating world of freshwater ecosystems. Through the Somos Agua/We Are Water collective, Sergio hopes to share his love for the Rio Bosque wetlands park and help the community learn about and understand the importance of water.


Alex Mayer

Dr. Alex Mayer is Professor of Civil Engineering and Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Resource Management at the University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Mayer’s teaching and research focuses on finding solutions to water resources problems through modeling of watersheds and groundwater aquifers and through interactions with water stakeholders. His current research topics include water resources systems modeling, payments for ecosystem services programs, impacts of sea level rise on coastal groundwater aquifers, water access and affordability in desert cities and for underserved populations, and climate change impacts on urban and agricultural water availability.