New Mexico

Rio Grande Water Fund

Annual Report in Photos

See how the Rio Grande Water Fund is making a real difference for people and nature.

Healthy Forests, Clean Water

Restoring essential forested lands upstream will ensure a continuous supply of clean water downstream.

Restoring Forests for Clean Water

Watch a video about forest restoration in New Mexico's Rio Grande Watershed.


Would You Drink It?

This is what happens to the rivers that supply our drinking water after a severe wildfire. Want to know why?

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

New Mexico’s Rio Grande and its tributaries supply water to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Native American Pueblos and other communities—water for more than half of New Mexico’s population and an essential ingredient for our state’s economic growth. 

But 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.
  • Meanwhile, tons of debris was deposited in Cochiti Lake, closing the area to recreation and dumping excessive sediment in the reservoir. 
A Solution: Rio Grande Water Fund

The Rio Grande Water Fund is a ground-breaking project that is engaging private and public partners in protecting vital watersheds in northern New Mexico.  

The Rio Grande Water Fund will generate sustainable funding for a 20-year program of large-scale forest and watershed restoration treatments targeting 600,000 acres north of Albuquerque—including thinning overgrown forests, restoring streams and rehabilitating areas that flood after wildfires.

You can find more details below and in the comprehensive plan or Executive Summary.

Forests: Hope for Our Health and Economy

Forests store and filter a majority of New Mexico’s water supply.  

When forests can’t provide clean, reliable water, our health and economy are jeopardized. 

Restoring overgrown forests is a proven solution to make forests safer and healthier.

By preserving and restoring our forests, we can sustain New Mexico’s water supply, increase social and economic benefits for local communities and contribute to an improved quality of life. 

Only by restoring essential forested lands upstream will we ensure a continuous supply of clean water downstream.

Healthy Streams Benefit Communities

The Rio Grande Water Fund is an essential ingredient for economic growth, providing jobs and other income generating resources. 

  • An estimated 300-600 forest worker jobs will become available each year, depending on whether thinning is done by hand crews or machines and the kind of wood products manufacturing that is established. 
  • The state’s tourism economy can also prosper as healthy and scenic rivers, forests and mountains attract recreationists and visitors of all types seeking to experience New Mexico’s beautiful outdoors.
Working Together So Nature Can Work For Us

The Rio Grande Water Fund is a project of the Wildfire and Water Source Protection effort led by The Nature Conservancy and the Rio and Forest Advisory Board. 

We’re uniting water users and using innovative research, tools and alliances to help protect water and the natural capital we all depend on. 

The Conservancy has a strong, proactive foundation in science and problem-solving, and will provide guidance, planning and research to ensure resources are directed toward places and activities that have the best return on investment. 

How You Can Help

The fund will leverage existing federal funds, so every dollar invested is maximized to treat additional lands and waters to secure our water supply for communities, business, industry and nature.

Donate today to give New Mexico the gift of clean water tomorrow.

Thank you to the generous supporters of the Rio Grande Water Fund.

Go Deeper



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