Collaboration on New Mexico’s Rio Grande

A new environmental water sharing governance experiment is underway this late summer on the Rio Grande in central New Mexico in an effort to keep stretches of the river wet for ecosystem benefits. Ollie Reed sketched out the details in this morning’s Albuquerque Journal:

Sandia, Isleta, Santa Ana and Cochiti pueblos each donated 100 acre-feet of San Juan-Chama water to Audubon and the Club at Las Campanas, located in Santa Fe, kicked in an additional 399 acre-feet. The total of 799 acre-feet is being used to supplement the Rio Grande’s flow for the benefit of fish and wildlife.

“In collaboration with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, we will increase the flow in the river for a 35-mile stretch for nearly 24 days,” Julie Weinstein, executive director of Audubon New Mexico, said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Our rivers are especially critical for bird habitat and biodiversity.”

This is a collaborative deal to put water in the river channel for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow – among a leading environmental NGO, the federal government, the valley’s largest ag water district and Native American communities. That’s a step away from the litigation and conflict that have been a major feature of the issue’s environmental politics.

The details of the plumbing being used are an interesting part of this project. The MRGCD is using its drain system to target the water at the river stretches where the partners have determined they can get the most benefit for the small amount of water available.

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