Would You Drink It?
This is what happens to the rivers that supply our drinking water after a severe wildfire. Want to know why?Watch
Restoring Forests for Clean Water
Watch a video about forest restoration in New Mexico's Rio Grande Watershed.
Benefits of the Rio Grande Water Fund
- Clean and secure water
- Outdoor recreation and tourism
- Jobs in rural communities
- New Mexico-grown wood products
- Healthy fish and wildlife
- Reduced wildfire risks
THE RIO GRANDE WATER FUND IS:
- Protecting forests—and water they provide for 1 million people in northern New Mexico
- Generating sustainable funding for a 20-year program to restore 600,000 acres north of Albuquerque
- Boosting local economies by creating jobs and wood for product
- Get project highlights in our 2016 Rio Grande Water Fund Annual Report >
- Give New Mexico the gift of clean water! >
New Mexico’s Rio Grande and its tributaries supply water for wildlife and 1 million people. The health of these waterways is key to the health of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Native American Pueblos and other communities—half of New Mexico's population—and an essential ingredient for our state’s economic growth.
What's the Problem? Fire-prone Forests
Forests store and filter a majority of New Mexico’s water supply. But when our forests are overcrowded, they can’t provide the clean reliable water that we need, and our health and economy are jeopardized.
Frequent, high-severity wildfires and subsequent post-fire flooding increasingly threaten the Rio Grande’s water security and cause extensive soil erosion and debris flows that degrade water quality for communities downstream.
The Las Conchas Fire of 2011 illustrates this problem:
- Post-fire thunderstorms brought rain to the burned areas and created massive ash and debris flows in surrounding canyons.
- The Rio Grande turned black with sediment and water managers halted withdrawals in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, determining the ash-laden water was not worth treating.
- Tons of debris was deposited in Cochiti Lake, closing the area to recreation and dumping excessive sediment in the reservoir.
By taking care of our forests today, we can sustain New Mexico’s water supply, increase social and economic benefits for local communities and contribute to an improved quality of life—now and well into the future.
Our Solution: Rio Grande Water Fund
The Nature Conservancy-led Rio Grande Water Fund is a ground-breaking project that is protecting vital forests in northern New Mexico—and the water they provide. We’re uniting water users and using innovative research, tools and alliances to help protect water and the natural capital we all depend on.
With over 50 charter signatories, the Water Fund is working to generate sustainable funding for a 20-year program to restore 600,000 acres north of Albuquerque by thinning overgrown forests, restoring streams, managing fire and healing burned lands post-fire. And we're off to a roaring start: In just two years, we've already tripled the annual average amount of acres restored!
Restoring overgrown forests is a proven solution to make forests safer and healthier. And research shows that fighting catastrophic mega-fires and rehabilitating damaged areas afterward can cost tens of millions of dollars. The bottom line is simple: Restoring forests now is a smarter investment.
Thank you to the generous supporters of the Rio Grande Water Fund.
Healthier Streams = Healthier Economy
In addition to securing our water, the Rio Grande Water Fund is boosting the local economy by creating jobs and generating wood for timber companies. It’s a win-win!
- An estimated 300-600 forest worker jobs will become available each year
- The state’s tourism economy can also prosper
- Walatowa Timber Can be a Model in Other Woodlands (Albuquerque Journal)
- Explore the comprehensive plan and download the Executive Summary
- Get project highlights in the 2016 Rio Grande Water Fund Annual Report
- Read a High Country News overview
- Forest Thinning Underway to Protect Watersheds (Los Alamos Monitor, January 2017)
- Hear what tree rings are telling us about drought and fire—and how to prevent costly damage
- Learn how snowpack can't efficiently store water in an overcrowded forest (Albuquerque Journal)
- Listen to a podcast about STEM education, watershed protection and forest fire prevention with New Mexico conservation director Laura McCarthy
- See the USGS debris flow report for the Sandia and Manzano Mountains
- Watch a KOAT news story about a local family business that's working to keep you warm while preventing wildfires, too.
- Read the Albuquerque Journal article, "Post-fire runoff led to 'dead zones' in river"
- Watch a video about how businesses are supporting the Rio Grande Water Fund
- Read a National Geographic blog post about the role of water funds in protecting water from the impacts of wildfire
- Watch a KOB 4 news story about a new USGS computer model predicting potentially destructive landslides that could affect many Albuquerque neighborhoods.
- Watch a KOAT news story about a Fuels Measurement app designed to prevent catastrophic wildfires by helping ecologists collect data.
- See the Candidate List of Projects
- Submit your proposal to partner with the Rio Grande Water Fund