new mexico outstanding national resource waters

VICTORY! Protecting Outstanding New Mexico Waters

We successfully represented a diverse coalition, including community members, state and local governments, farmers, acequia associations, and water conservation groups in a bid to protect some of New Mexico’s precious waterways.

In 2022, the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission voted unanimously to protect streams and wetlands in the Upper Pecos Watershed and significant portions of the Rio Grande, Rio Hondo, Lake Fork, East Fork Jemez River, San Antonio Creek, and Redondo Creek with Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRW) designations.

Outstanding Waters designation for these ecologically and recreationally significant waters will support and protect existing community uses, such as ranching and farming, while prohibiting new pollution from impacting these watersheds.

The Pecos Watershed is the ancestral homeland of the Pecos Pueblo, whose descendants still consider the area culturally significant. Spanish settlers came to the area in the mid-16th century, and their descendants depend on the region for traditional land-use practices like growing crops and raising livestock. Today, dozens of acequias divert from the Pecos River and clean water from the Upper Pecos Watershed is vital for local food, agriculture, and local economies.

For centuries, people in northern New Mexico have depended on clean water in the Rio Hondo, Upper Rio Grande, and Jemez watersheds to water livestock and feed acequia systems. The waters in and around the Valles Caldera National Preserve also hold significance for many Pueblos. This designation will ensure that clean water flows downstream to these critical watershed stakeholders and protect these traditional uses from adverse impacts.

The riparian areas fed by these waters represent some of the most ecologically diverse in the state, and are home to endangered, threatened, and at risk wildlife and plants – including the spotted owl, Jemez Mountains salamander, and bald eagle. These species depend of the clean water of these streams, and Outstanding National Resource Water protection will help these species thrive and survive.


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