Pueblos on front line of Rio Grande runoff deficits

Watersheds in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico provide between 50-75% of the water found in the Rio Grande but irrigators in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas take at least 80% of that from the 1,885 mile long river.
The ancient waterway is also a major source of supplies for some six million people and cities like Albuquerque and El Paso. But because of fire suppression efforts tree canopies in dense conifer forests intercept much of the winter snowpack hydrologists are predicting New Mexico could lose more than 70% of its runoff by the end of the century.

A compact limits Colorado to 100,00 acre feet and New Mexico to 200,000 acre feet each year. An acre foot is almost 326,000 gallons.  

At least fifteen native fish species and their aquatic habitat once found in the southern portion of the Rio Grande are now gone because the river dries up every year. Invasive species like Russian olives, Siberian elms and tamarisk, or saltcedar are crowding out the native cottonwoods and willows but just north of Albuquerque the Sandia Pueblo has turned to domestic goats to control invasives. The Santa Ana, Isleta and Cochiti Pueblos are considering similar actions along their portions of the Rio Grande.
Up until 1973, regular flooding on the Rio Grande helped keep the bosque ecosystem healthy and the invasive plants under control. The floodwaters spread tree seeds to higher ground and added nutrients to the soil, while clearing weeds away. But over the past half-century, after the Cochiti Dam and other infrastructure projects were built to manage the Rio Grande, the regular flooding ended. The 2012 Romero Fire, for example, started west of the Sandia Pueblo’s border but ended up blasting through tribal grasslands and ravaging over 300 acres of the bosque. Goats were originally introduced by Spanish colonizers, but they have been harmoniously integrated into the ecosystem and agricultural lifestyle of the mid-Rio Grande pueblos for over 300 years. Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano (Sandia) said that when he was growing up, elders would tell him stories about how to use the bosque sustainably. [High Country News]
A lawsuit that could settle a river allocation dispute between New Mexico and Texas is being heard by a senior judge for the 8th District Court of Appeals and is expected to go before the Supreme Court of the United States. 

The headwaters of the Pecos River are in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and Santa Fe National Forest. That waterway is also at risk to anthropogenic climate changes.

ip photo: a burl grows on a cottonwood in the Rio Grande bosque just north of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.

No comments: