This year, headlines online and in the newspaper shouted about the Rio Grande, its stress under drought and inevitable demise, and a recent NY Times article suggested that ultimately no one cared to protect it from over-allocation, diversions, or climate change. This alarm sounded in response to legitimately troubling stressors in the system. The savior of the Rio Grande - melting snowpack from the Rocky Mountains every spring – replenished very little of the river resulting in a dry stretch south of Socorro for nearly 20 miles. River rats nationwide nervously monitored river flows, landowners and farmers worried about the fulfillment of their water rights, and groups like Audubon New Mexico wondered what the affect would be on the thousands of birds preparing for fall migration.
Arid conditions in the West and the bathtub rings around our reservoirs induce anxiety throughout the region, but it is important to not lose hope. Hardy and resilient problem solvers are borne out of these conditions and while the drought is real and it is true that the river is in bad shape, Audubon New Mexico along with many other organizations, community members, and tribes are working to ensure that the river remains a ribbon of life for bids, wildlife, and people. The Rio Grande has shown drought resilience over the past decades and, with our help, will be able to weather more intense droughts associated with our warming planet.
This July, Audubon New Mexico initiated the release of 998 acre feet of stored reservoir water into a 34-mile drying stretch of the Middle Rio Grande, augmenting vital streamflow needed to sustain century old cottonwoods, wetlands, birds and wildlife in stretches of the river that are experiencing severe drying due to drought conditions.
Shortly after, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation leased 20,000 acre feet of water stored in Abiquiu Reservoir to keep the river flowing in the Middle Rio Grande Basin.
And as the ecosystem that is nourished by the Rio Grande changes due to raising temperatures dozens of habitat restoration projects, wildlife monitoring surveys, and community service days in support of the river have been implemented. Audubon New Mexico is engaging in a strategy to help save this beautiful river that includes water acquisitions for the river, habitat restoration projects, science to support informed decisions, education of our future conservation leaders, and engagement of our network.
The Rio Grande will not return to what it was before human disturbance. Today we draw a myriad of resources in order to sustain flows in the Rio Grande; from recycled irrigation water, to water leased from municipalities to water being moved down river for delivery to neighboring Texas and Mexico.
While altered, the river is a ribbon of life that is cared for. Audubon New Mexico and others are committed to keeping it wet and resilient.
Most likely, you care too. Thank you for supporting our mission by advocating for the Rio Grande.