Rio Grande Water Fund

Protecting Forests and Water in Northern New Mexico

Picking Up the Pace

In just two years we've tripled the annual average of forest thinning to protect water!

Healthy Forests, Clean Water

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

Would You Drink It?

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


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


  • 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


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 populationand 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.

Download the comprehensive plan or Executive Summary>>

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

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

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