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 10-30 year program of large-scale forest and watershed restoration treatments—including thinning overgrown forests, restoring streams and rehabilitating areas that flood after wildfires.
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.
Thank you to the generous supporters of the Rio Grande Water Fund.
- Download the comprehensive plan and Executive Summary
- Read the Albuquerque Journal article, "Post-fire runoff led to 'dead zones' in river" (May 25, 2014)
- 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