Innovative Collaboration to Secure Water, Boost Economy

Media invited to Rio Grande Water Fund launch event on Tuesday, July 29 at 10 a.m.


Albuquerque, NM – WEBWIRE – Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Nature Conservancy and partners are excited to announce the launch of a groundbreaking project on Tuesday, July 29, that will secure drinking water, boost the state’s economy, add jobs and improve the quality of life for residents of northern New Mexico. 

The Rio Grande Water Fund is an innovative mechanism that will coordinate and leverage fundraising efforts from public and private donors. The Water Fund will support a 20-year plan to restore roughly 1.7 million acres of overgrown forests around the Rio Grande River and its tributaries – from Taos to Albuquerque – which are at high risk for damaging wildfires. 

Forested mountains serve as nature’s water storage and filtering facilities. Frequent, high-severity wildfires and subsequent post-fire flooding increasingly threaten the water that serves half of the state’s population, an estimated 1 million people. Heavy rain following the 2011 Los Conchas Fire turned the Rio Grade black with sediment, forcing the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe to halt water withdrawals. 

“We know thinning our forests makes them safer and healthier but the 3,000 to 5,000 acres we treat each year, on average, is not enough to make a difference,” says Laura McCarthy, the Nature Conservancy in New Mexico’s director of conservation. “The Rio Grande Water Fund will increase forest restoration 10-fold, more than 600,000 acres in 20 years. This effort includes thinning overgrown forests, restoring streams and rehabilitating areas that flood after wildfires.” 

It makes more sense to spend money on preventative measures. To thin one acre of dense forest in the Rio Grande Water Fund area costs $700 on average, whereas the cost and economic impact of one acre affected by a damaging wildfire is as high as $2,125 per acre. 

“Growth, conservation and well managed natural resources can work together if the end game is building a strong economy and a high quality of life for people who want to live, work and raise a family here,” says Dale Dekker, Dekker/Perich/Sabaini and Water Fund partner. 

The project is gaining momentum with support from key agencies. “We really appreciate partners getting involved with the water fund,” adds Katherine Yuhas, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s water conservation office. “We recognize protecting the Rio Grande and Chama Rivers and their forested tributaries and headwaters are important for the future of our water.” 

This water fund model has been developed successfully in several other U.S. and South American cities, including Santa Fe. To learn more about the Rio Grande Water Fund, visit nature.org/riogrande

Media are invited to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Water Fund’s first thinning project on Tuesday, July 29, at 10:00 a.m. in the Cibola National Forest near Sandia Park. Also, see how the trees pulled from the forest will be used and get an in-depth look at the forest-water connection. Several experts will be on hand with great visuals. Directions will be provided.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org



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